We will be known as His not by the holiness of our way of life, not by the number of times we go to church a week (or a day) or even by our piety, we shall be known as His, He tells us, by our love one for another. What wondrous thing is this? We have some experience, most of us, of love – the love of a parent or a loved one, our love back, and so this is not some esoteric mystery we must study hard to grasp. It is the fulfillment of the best part of our fallen nature – love, and that nature is redeemed by love. This is not something reserved for an elite, for a set of spiritual crack troops who need to go into long training, neither is it something for which we must study and give up things – it is just love. And yet how hard it can be to love, not least out enemies. It is easier to embrace a regime of piety and sacrifice and the one on one relationship it can help us develop with God than it is to find in us the humility to forgive others and to love those who despitefully use us. The one allows us to go deeper with ourselves and God – the other requires of us an openness to others whom we may not even like.
We can live this vocation of love wherever we are – we do not have to go to the wild and desolate places. We can live it everyday and in every interaction we have with others. It is the love we have for those who love us – and it is the love we are told we have to have for those who don’t – and that can be the hardest thing of all for our fallen nature; we will find any excuse before we do it. I have a friend who is one of the best Christians I know, her piety is a model I wish I could emulate, but as she once said to me – “I struggle to love those who dislike me, and I find I cannot love those who hate God.’ The only comfort I could offer was I’m there with her, too – and I can’t match her piety either.
But it is through his risen life in us that Jesus sends His love to the ends of the earth – we are his instruments – the vessels of His love. He did not come in glory to command obedience, He came in humility to bring love. He chose Mary Magdalen, a sinner and a woman, so one whose testimony would not hold in a court of Law, to bear first witness to His resurrection – because she love Him. He sent the disciple who did not believe unless he saw to bear witness. He sent His friend Peter, who had denied Him, to bear witness and He forgave Him and love redeemed Peter, as it did Thomas and Mary – and as it will all who love Him and believe in Him.
So it is that we sinners, we children of the flesh, are redeemed by His love, and in His love move and have our being. Though the cloud from sight received him, when the 40 days were over, shall our hearts forget His promise – “I am with you evermore”? As so often, it is the poet and the hymn writer who gets closest to our hearts. We have received Him, His precious Body and His precious blood, at the great Eucharistic Feast, and were are sent forth in His love, to bear what witness we can to that love, and the hope it gives not just us, but all mankind.