Several years ago I heard a story of a preacher that was so good, so vibrant, so challenging and so powerful that everyone wanted him to come preach at their parish mission. The parish finally got on his schedule and planned for months for his arrival. This three-day mission was going to transform the parish. New ministries were going to begin, families were going to start coming to Mass again, and the collection was going to go through the roof (which desperately needed repairs).The evening finally arrived. The church was packed and this famous preacher stood up, looked at the crowd and said, “Love one another.” He went back to his chair and sat down. Apparently, the evening was over. People seemed very confused but had heard how great this preacher was, so they gave him the benefit of the doubt, went home and showed up the next evening for the second night.
The second night the choir sang several beautiful hymns. A lector beautifully proclaimed scripture, and now it was time for the preacher. The preacher stood up and with much greater passion, spoke these words, “Love one another.” He finished and went back to his chair. This time several parishioners left upset. They had anticipated this mission for months and so far it had been a real disappointment. Discouraged, they were determined to see it though.
Finally, the third evening arrived. Surprisingly the church was still packed in anticipation of the last night. The preacher got up, cleared his voice, and in a very loud voice proclaimed, “Love one another.” One of the parishioners, visibly angry, stood up and said, “For Pete’s sake Father, don’t you have anything else to say?” The preacher looked out at the congregation and simply said, “Once you do that, I will have much more to say.”
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Nowhere in that statement did he say it would be easy. These past few weeks we have seen great hate and much anger. Even in the midst of this, we are still called to love one another. That is how we will live as disciples. Are you up to the challenge?