Tag Archives: Love

Choosing the Better Part

Christ at the House of Martha and Mary by Diego Velázquez (1618)

My sermon from this past Sunday. The text was Luke 10:38-42

Having people over is very enjoyable, but it can also be a lot of work. The apartment has to be cleaned, and depending how long people are staying, a guest room may have to be prepared, even if it is a make-shift room. food has to be planned and prepared, often more than one typically is used to preparing. Additionally, if you are anything like me, I much like to prepare better fare than I typically have. While I’m fine with rice and beans, I like my guests to have something a bit more exciting, tasty, a bit more intensive. While I am satisfied with spending an evening reading, having guests often means making plans. A lot of work, for sure, but important work, worthwhile work, hospitable work.

We see something similar in our reading today, but first, where are we in the story?

Jesus is traveling again. This passage comes right on the heels of the story that we read last week, when the lawyer asked Jesus exactly who is my neighbor, the one that he needed to love, and when Jesus told him, love even the person you grew up to hate, the person of a different ethnicity and religion, love the foreigner. Immediately after this, we have our story of Jesus visiting these two sisters, Martha and Mary.

We’re not sure if Jesus just showed up at their doorstep or if he told them in advance that he was coming. So Jesus came, and the Middle Eastern codes of hospitality required them to care for Jesus. We typically think that hospitality is offering coffee or tea and cookies or something. We see it as just being nice, but in first century Palestine it was a serious matter, life or death. Remember, this is largely a desert and if you don’t care for people who come to you, chances are they will die. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all put a large emphasis on the importance of hospitality, and this continues today.

So, Martha is busy making preparations for Jesus’ stay. We aren’t told exactly what she was preparing, but we can probably safely assume that it was a meal.

But Martha can’t just prepare any meal. Jesus is a well known and well respected (by some, greatly hated by others, of course) religious leader. In fact, here, Martha calls Jesus “Lord”, so the chance is great that she had an inkling at least that he was more than just that. So she can’t just make any meal. She likely wants to prepare the best meal. So she is working really hard to show the best hospitality to Jesus, but what is going on?  Her sister Mary is just sitting, listening to Jesus. Martha, overworked and underpaid, as the colloquialism goes, gets fed up with having to prepare the food, set the table, and make a nice and welcoming environment and in all her running around, she sees her sister, not helping. One thing leads to another, every time Martha passes the entrance to the room, she sees her sister sitting there while she continues to run around. Finally, she can’t take it anymore.

She slams down her utensils on the counter-top removes her apron and stomps out into the main room where Jesus and Mary sit.

“Lord,” she addresses Jesus respectfully, but we can sense a bit of impatience and frustration under her voice. “Don’t you care that my sister has abandoned all of this work to me alone? Tell her to come and help me!”

With Jesus’ reply, we can put two different inflections to it which give two different nuances to the words. We can see it as a chastisement, a reprimand, a rebuke. Or we can see it as an invitation. The best reading, I think, is to see it as an invitation.

Notice, what we have here with with Martha and Mary is not a contrast between good and bad. Martha didn’t really do anything wrong. She was being hospitable, something that Jesus certainly appreciated, after all, the importance of hospitality is plastered all over the pages of scripture from the very first book to the last.  No, Martha wasn’t doing anything particularly wrong, which is one of the reasons that I don’t think that this was a rebuke. No, she wasn’t doing anything particularly bad, she was doing most things right, she was just missing one piece.

Hospitality is not just about providing things for guests, which is important, but the foundation of hospitality is to care for those whom God brings to you. Therefore, an important piece that Martha was missing was not in her work, but rather in her neglect of paying attention to their guest, to Jesus.

Notice, Jesus doesn’t say anything about her being busy, he said that she was worried and distracted by many things. She was worried and distracted by many things. Jesus was not yelling at Martha, but rather offering an invitation and showing concern for Martha.

“Martha, Martha,” Jesus said, “You are worried and distracted by many things.”

The issue here is not at all that Martha was doing anything wrong by making preparations for Jesus’ visit, it was that in her preparations, she seems to have forgotten what she was actually doing. She became so engrossed in what she was preparing, that she seemed to have forgotten who was sitting right there in her living room.

Some have used this to argue that a contemplative spirituality is superior to a working spirituality, that somehow sitting still at the feet of Jesus is superior to work, to being busy to getting things done. But this is not at all.  Nowhere does scripture ever downplay the importance of doing things. I mean, where would the church be without people who do things…without people who connect with God through service?

No, this is not at all, but it says something important. It says that while we work, regardless of what we are doing we need to do two things, first, we must listen to the voice of God, and second, we cannot lose focus of the fact that God is always here with us, wherever we are, whatever we are doing. Martha lost track of the fact that God was sitting in her living room while she frantically ran to and fro to get things ready, but in the process, she lost sight of who she was with, of the whole point of hospitality.

I wonder if any of you can resonate with this. Do you ever feel like you get so busy with things, that you forget about God? Do you ever get so worried and distracted by many things that you find that you didn’t pray, that you didn’t have a chance to read scripture, that you didn’t have the opportunity to, even for fifteen minutes, listen to what God might be saying to you?  Now, I don’t say this to make you feel bad. People who are busy don’t need lectures about how they need to pray more, or how they need to read the Bible more. While this is often accurate, guilting ourselves or each other into this is not the point.

Rather, see this as an invitation.

Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite brother in France in who lived in in the middle of the 17th century. Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen. He prepared food for the other brothers and he cleaned up afterwards. Day in and day out. Preparing meals and scrubbing pots. Preparing meals and scrubbing pots. Day in and day out. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Preparing meals and scrubbing pots. What helps us remember Brother Lawrence, however, was not the food that he cooked or his ability to scrub pots until they shined. No, the reason that we remember Brother Lawrence, but throughout all of his mundane work, he developed the discipline to experience the deep and abiding presence of God even in the four walls of his kitchen with stoves burning, pots clanging, and dishwater smelling.

You see, Brother Lawrence grew in the ability to be both Martha and Mary at the same time. He kept his hands busy with important, albeit mundane, repetitive, and tedious work.

Brother Lawrence writes, “We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him… It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

His work, his unspiritual and tedious work of preparing meals and scrubbing pots, but he always worked to always have a sense of God’s presence. He chose the better part.

It wasn’t easy for Brother Lawrence. It took him years to develop this. It didn’t bring him notoriety within his lifetime, it was his writings that brought him fame long after his death. But fame wasn’t what we was seeking, he simply wanted to be able to pay attention to God while he prepared things for God’s people, while he did his work, he simply wanted to be able to choose the better part in his work.

It wasn’t easy for Brother Lawrence, and it likely won’t be easy for us either. It is not easy, but it is important, it is worthwhile, it is the better part.

Be aware of God’s presence where you are. Listen for God’s voice among the clamour of your daily life. Work is good, and there is nothing wrong with being busy, but remember that God is right with you, and we cannot ignore this fact. Perhaps the story here of Martha and Mary isn’t to present us with an either/or, perhaps it is a both/and.

I want to close with a prayer generally attributed to Brother Lawrence. Whether it was actually written by him, I do not know, and it does not matter, because I think that it describes well what we all strive for:

O Lord of pots and pans and things,
Since I have no time to be
a great saint by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food
in room, or by the sea,
Accept the service that I do-
I do it unto Thee.

Turning Faces

Sermon from this past Sunday. Text was Luke 9:51-62

This passage contains one of the most significant lines in the entire Gospel of Luke. It is pretty well hidden, though, you may not have recognized it.

“He set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

This is how the New Revised Standard Version reads. The New International Version in the pews reads, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The meaning is essentially the same, but the NRSV provides us with an image, something to picture, it provides for us a hinge in the narrative which we can not only observe, but enter into.

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.

This is the hinge point of the Gospel of Luke. Up until now, Jesus has been preparing, the Devil tried to tempt Jesus in the desert, but he did not fall for it. He called disciples, he performed miracles, and he taught. Our passage today, begins Jesus’ long and somewhat slow journey to Jerusalem, and to the humiliation and execution and resurrection which awaited him there.

This journey continues for another fourteen chapters, so it wasn’t a direct route, and it appears that Jesus wasn’t in a hurry to get to Jerusalem. No, Jesus wasn’t in a hurry, but he wasn’t avoiding it either. You see, Jesus’ purpose on earth was not just to die, but to show us how to live as well through his life, teaching, and ministry. His death was part of that, but not the whole thing. Jesus, then, wasn’t in a hurry to get to Jerusalem. He knew that he would get there, but first he needed some more time to show God’s people what God desired, how God wanted them to live, to show us what a perfect human life is like.

He set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Jesus comes down the mountain from the transfiguration, when he was changed, his skin glowed and his clothes became dazzling white — a foretaste of what would happen in his resurrection and ascension. Jesus comes down the mountain and he casts out a demon from a young boy which his disciples could not do. Jesus predicts his death, but no one quite understands what he means. Jesus then deals with some exclusivity within the disciples. First, the disciples argue about which one of them was the greatest, and then John the disciple gets upset because he saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name who was not one of them. Jesus continues to try to teach them. The least among you is actually the greatest, Jesus said. Which I’m sure was met with confused looks. Jesus then reminds them that his mission is not for an exclusive few, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” You see, Jesus is for everyone, not just for the twelve disciples.

Here, there is an abrupt pause, and Jesus turns his head, southward from where he was, and looked across the flat plain. The disciples wonder what is going on, why is he gazing southward?  But Jesus knows what is happening. Jerusalem is there, and now he begins his journey to Jerusalem. The NIV says that he “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” which is a way to interpret Jesus setting is face to Jerusalem. In this action, Jesus makes it known that everything that happens following will be geared toward the final part of his mission, his death, resurrection, and ascension in Jerusalem, the culmination of his life and ministry.

The Gospel writer wants to make it clear to his reader, Theophilus, that what happened in Jerusalem, his death and resurrection was not simply something that happened by chance. It was always a part of Jesus’ life and ministry, and he always knew that it was a part of his life and ministry, and that Jesus embraced this.

He set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Here, Jerusalem is not simply a location. It is that, but it is more than that. Here, Jerusalem is not simply a city. It is that, but it is more than that. Jerusalem is symbolic. It is symbolic for the final stage in Jesus’ calling, it is symbolic for his death and resurrection. It is symbolic, here, for the culmination of Jesus’ message and the values of the kingdom of God.

Now, this passage speaks a great deal about discipleship and what it looks like to follow Jesus, but even more, I think that it speaks volumes of the all-encompassing love of Jesus.

After Jesus sent messengers into a town in Samaria — Samaritans were the much hated cousins of the Jews — they did not receive Jesus. We don’t know why, but something related to the fact that Jesus’ face was set toward Jerusalem. Now, James and John, to disciples who were very zealous and they really had, I think, decent intentions when they asked Jesus if they should call fire down onto the town and destroy it, perhaps bringing to mind when Elijah did something similar. But Jesus rebuked them. You see, even the hated Samaritans, even the hated Samaritans who did not receive him were not beyond the reach of Jesus’ all-encompassing and transformative love which is broad enough to even include the Samaritan village.

This transformative love of Jesus is much greater than any human understanding of love. The love of Jesus transforms how we understand our enemies, and those with whom we may disagree. The great love of Jesus transforms how we understand friendship, family, how we think of priorities when it comes to those things which are most important.

But what most clearly shows the love of Jesus for the world is that he set his face toward Jerusalem, the city that kills prophets. Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem to endure things that we don’t have to. Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem to show us the values of an upside-down world when death is really life, when what appears to be loss is actually victory, when the last will be first, and the first last.

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, so that we don’t have to. We, however, set our face toward Jesus. This doesn’t mean that following Jesus is easy sailing, this doesn’t mean that we will never have hardships. After all, following Jesus requires a similar singleminded determination, it often means that we will always be a sojourner, we will always be nomads, we will never have a true home here on earth. But, and this is a big but, these always follow our experience with the incredible, incomprehensible, earth shattering love of Jesus.

It is after this experience of the love of Jesus that we can understand that calling down fire to destroy a town, that going back after being called is not the way to respond to Jesus’ call, is not the way of Jesus.

Jesus can love even those who all of his family, friends, religious leaders, and culture hates. Jesus loved even those who wouldn’t receive him, who wouldn’t accept him, who didn’t understand why his face was set toward Jerusalem. Should we destroy them, they asked. But no…do not destroy them. This isn’t the point, Jesus told them.

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, and while Jesus seemed to be less obsessed with Jerusalem in Luke than in the other Gospels, this point marks a significant orientation to the rest of his life.

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. We set our face toward Jesus. Just as Jesus’ whole life and ministry is focused on the object of his gaze, our whole life and ministry is focused on the object of our gaze. For Jesus embraced the death and resurrection that was to come, but we have love, wholeness, grace, fullness of life as the object of our gaze. Jesus looked at death as he continued on with the trials of life and ministry, we look forward to life as we continue on with the trials of life and our own ministry.

This story begins with God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, love so great that he embraced the cross for the good of the world. It is only when we can perceive and experience this love that we can set our face toward Jesus and follow with a commitment.

This brings to mind a gospel hymn written in the 1920s, and the refrain goes like this:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

This is our response to God’s grace in Christ. Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem with determination. And we turn our eyes upon Jesus, and when we do, the things of earth — vengeance, violence, self-centeredness, other distractions, will grow dim we can focus on Jesus and following him wherever he leads.

It is when we perceive and experience this love that we can begin to live into Jesus command that we love one another just as Jesus loves us (John 13:34).

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, and because of the immense love of Jesus to set his face toward Jerusalem for us, we set our face to Jesus.

Hump Day Hymns: O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

Hymnal

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give the back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
-George Matheson (1842-1906)

I was helping a friend with yard work and his daughter, a toddler, was right with us greatly enjoying being a part of what we were doing. Suddenly the child turned and began to move, rather quickly, toward the street. My friend reached out and all he could grab was her shirt to stop her from making it there. For a brief moment she struggled against his desperate grasp as he gently tried to bring her closer to himself. She began to cry a little bit, seeing something in the road that she wanted to play with but unable to get there. What we both realized but she did not was that the most important thing is that she was not hurt.

My friend turns to me and says, “I probably look like a terrible parent.”

O Love that wilt not let me go…

My friend’s daughter, of course, did not quite understand the danger about running into the street. She did not understand that cars drive down the street and that up against a car, a toddler will always lose. She did not understand that her father, my friend, was simply looking out for her safety. All she knew was that there was something intriguing in the street that she wanted to explore and play with.

My friend turns to me and says, “I probably look like a terrible parent.”

He brought his daughter in for a hug and gently repeated one of the things that he is trying to teach her, not to run out into the street.

I turned to my friend and said, “No, if you were a terrible parent, you would have let her run out in the street without even caring.”

O Love that wilt not let me go…

The Simplest and Most Difficult Commandment

Although we are in the Fifth Sunday after the resurrection, our gospel passage today comes from shortly before Jesus’ betrayal and execution. Jesus and the disciples are gathered together in an upper room that they rented to spend some time together and to observe the Passover.

During this time, Jesus took of his outer robe (like someone would take off their tie and roll up their sleeves to work) and wrapped a towel around himself. Jesus took a basin from the corner of the room and poured water into it. Jesus kneelt down onto the ground and asked the disciples to remove their sandals. One by one, Jesus took their feet into his hands and poured water over them. He then dried their feet with the towel that we put on his waist.

You see, in the ancient world, people walked everywhere and they would wear sandals. The roads were not paved, of course, unless you were in the big cities, and feet often became dirty and dusty. Hosts would provide water for washing feet and sometimes a servant to do it for them. It was a basic act of hospitality, of caring for those who God has brought to them.

So in this moment, Jesus humbles himself to serve his disciples — makes me think of what Jesus taught before that, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

One by one, Jesus took the feet of each of the disciples into his hands. Poured water over them, cleaned them, and then dried them, gently placing them back down.  When Jesus came to Peter, however, he protested, it was not right, therefore, for the Messiah, the anointed one of God, the savior and redeemer of the world to humble himself before the disciples. Finally, he allowed Jesus to wash his feet, and after Jesus finished washing the feet of all of the disciples, he put back on his outer robe (unrolls his sleeves and puts his tie back on), and sat down at the table with them again.

“Do you realize what just happened?” Jesus asked them.  Jesus was great at turning every moment into a symbolic and teachable moment.

“You call me Teacher and Lord,” Jesus continued, “and you are right, that is what I am. If I am your Teacher and your master, and I have washed your feet, then you must wash each other’s feet. I have been an example to you, and you must follow this example.”

Jesus was telling his disciples not simply to wash each other’s feet, but to care for one another, serve one another, take on humble tasks to help one another. Jesus was telling the disciples to submit to one another, not because one is lesser and one is greater, but because those who humble themselves will be exalted, but those who exalt themselves will be humbled.

You see, Jesus did not become lower than his disciples. Similarly, the disciples did not suddenly become higher or more important than Jesus, but still, Jesus stooped down, took their dirty feet, and cleaned them with his own hands.

The gospel writer now tells us that Jesus was troubled in spirit, as he told the disciples that one of them will betray him. Peter asked, “Who is it?” Jesus tells him that the one to whom he gives the bread that he dipped into the oil will be the one. Jesus takes the bread and hands it to Judas and we are told that Satan entered him, “Go quickly and do what you must do,” Jesus tells him.

The rest of the disciples don’t quite get what is going on. Now, Judas was the treasurer, and some thought that Jesus was telling him to buy the things that they needed for the festival, others thought that Jesus was telling Judas to give something to the poor. It seems simple to us, but in real life, it was a very enigmatic — mysterious, confusing — moment.

Judas, then, takes his piece of bread and goes his way.

This is where we enter the story, right as Judas is leaving the upper room with the disciples.

Jesus then tells them, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”

One thing that I often think about, is why does Jesus call this a new commandment?  Love for one another has always been a commandment, way back in Leviticus we can read this, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:18). So love for one another has always been a part of our faith all the way back to the beginning.

This commandment, then, is not so much new as in never before heard of but new as in renewed, enhanced. You know the line, “New and improved”? This is the commandment that Jesus gives to us. The commandment to love one another is new and improved, enhanced, strengthened. We are not just to love others like we do ourselves, we are to love one another as Jesus has loved us.  As Jesus loves us.

Jesus continues, “‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”

Here Jesus lays down the simplest and and most difficult thing possible.  It is simple, love each other. But it is incredibly difficult, love each other.  You see, Jesus didn’t say, “love those who love you,” he didn’t say, “love those who are easy to love,” he didn’t even say, “love those who are kind to you.”  Jesus said, As I have loved you, love one another.

How many of you have someone in your life who you think is simply unlovable? How about this a bit closer to home. Look around the sanctuary, take a good look at everyone here. How many of you think that someone sitting in here is unlovable   See, if we cannot even love the 50 to 60 of us who gather here every week, we can see how difficult this command can be.

Jesus gives us this command not because it is easy, but because it important.  In fact, it is so important that Jesus tells them that the way that others will be able to recognize Jesus’ disciples is if they love one another. Not by wearing a cross, not by going to church, not by speaking religious language, but by love. Wearing a cross is fine, I do so. But that does not make me a follower of Jesus. Going to church is crucial, all Christians must gather together regularly, scripture is abundantly clear about this, but simply showing up to church does not make one a Christian. Speaking in the language of faith, talking about faith and Jesus is good, but simply speaking this language or knowing Bible verses does not make someone a Christian.  How do we know a Christian, a follower of Jesus?  We know them by their love for one another.

Surely not those who are unlovable right pastor?

I want to remind you that Jesus knew clearly what Judas was going to do. When Jesus washed the disciples feet, Judas was there. Shortly after Jesus gives this command to love one another, Jesus will demonstrate such love to die for people, even people who are unable to love Jesus on their own. Jesus could have said any number of things, but Jesus tells them to love one another.

But Jesus doesn’t just tell them to love however they feel like it, we are called to strive to love others as Jesus has loved (and loves) us. But how does Jesus love?

Theologian William Barclay notes four characteristics of Jesus’ love:

First, it is selfless. Jesus’ love for his disciples was so great that Jesus’ entire life was directed at them, not asking himself, “what do I get out of this?” So also must our love be focused on caring for the other person rather than what we can get out of the arrangement.

Second, it is sacrificial. Jesus will do whatever it takes to continue in love, even if it leads to a beating and a grotesque execution. Sometimes we may think that the goal of love is to give us happiness. But what Jesus shows us that sometimes love demands pain and a cross.

Third, it is understanding. Jesus knew his disciples. We often show up in the same building once a week at most, and many times we don’t really even get to know one another or know what is going on in one another’s lives. Jesus was deeply involved in the lives of the disciples not because he wanted to point out this thing or that thing that they did wrong, but because he wanted to know them, to understand them, so that he could love them better. Real love is not loving an ideal, but loving someone how they are.

Fourth, it is forgiving. Peter was going to deny Jesus at the very time when Jesus needed him most. Yet what did Jesus do?  Jesus reinstated him, forgave him, reached out to him, and welcomed him back into the fold. True love is based on forgiveness and always involves forgiveness.  Loving like Jesus requires that we can forgive even the most painful of betrayals, even when it hurts so badly to do so.

Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.

Loving is hard, and perfect love is something we will not attain, this side of redemption. But love is not something that is completely unattainable.  Think of a time in the past week, when you have chosen love. Think of a time when you could have acted in a number of ways, but you acted in a loving way. Perhaps you worked to be more understanding of another even when it was difficult, perhaps you sacrificed in some way to benefit another, perhaps you had a moment when you were thinking not of yourself, but fully of what is better for the other person. Perhaps there was a moment when someone wronged you and you really felt that you were in the right, but you offered forgiveness. These are all ways that we behave in love.

Take a moment to think about it. Think about what happened, think about what you were feeling and what you were thinking.

Now, I want you to think about a time in the past week or so when you found it hard to love. Perhaps you were simply not able (or willing) to try to truly understand the other person or where the other person was coming from. Perhaps you were not interested in thinking of the other over yourself, or you found it really hard to sacrifice. Perhaps you could not forgive someone for whatever reason.

Take a moment to think about it. Think about what happened, think about what you were feeling, and what you were thinking.

You see, we do love people, regularly, and we do fail, regularly. It is right for us to give thanks to God for allowing us those times when we have loved others, and we can pray to God to give us strength to be able to love others when we have not.

Remember this, loving someone else begins not with them, but with you. To truly love someone, the work is not that they need to make themselves lovable, but that we need to be more loving. If you can’t love those whom you don’t think deserve it, we can never truly love anyone. If we find ourselves unable to love we must first look in a mirror, we must look inside of ourselves, because the capacity to love others begins within.

Shortly after Jesus gives this command, Jesus goes on, not only to talk about love but to show love. To exhibit love. To redeem a world which rejected him, to bring true light into a world who loves darkness. Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected because “God so loved the world.” So even in those times when we fail to love, we can remember that God extends love to us, and God grants us grace to, little by little, grow in our capacities to love one another. After all, we love because God first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).