Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - St. Andrew Babola SJ - How often has fear ruled your actions? Will you dare to act from love today? Have you received Jesus’ gift of unconditional love? Does this show in your sharing of that love?

To rad the texts click on the texts: Wis 10:10-14; Jn 15:9-17

Andrew Babola was born in 1591 in Poland. He joined the Society of Jesus when he was 20 years old in 1611.

The most successful and outstanding mission lead by Baobla was in the eastern part of Lithuania (present Belarus). There was a unique situation at that time, because of the Union of Brest, which gave the opportunity for the Orthodox Church in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to retain the old liturgy and to join the Roman Catholic Church. To begin with, it was a fruitful process of reunification of the two Christian Churches. But after a few decades the rebellion of unsatisfied Orthodox clergy started to grow. Finally it broke into a war of neighbouring Russia against the Commonwealth.

Bobola did not only work in the cities, but he would go frequently into the villages, and towns, which were situated in areas that were difficult to visit. It is said that just before his death two entire villages returned to the Catholic faith through his preaching. His opponents called him “the soul-hunter”.

In 1657, he was caught in Peredil, and threatened with the purpose of making him deny the catholic faith. He refused. His refusal enraged his tormentors and “they tore his skin from his hands and head and in imitation of chasuble that the priest wears at Mass, they tore the skin from his chest and back. Then in imitation of Jesus’ wounds, they cut holes in the palms of his hands. After two hours of his torture, during which he continually prayed for his tormentors, they jabbed a butcher’s awl into his chest near the heart. They then strung him up by his feet and finally gave him a blow with a sabre that mercifully brought an end to his passion.”

He was beatified in 1853 and canonized in 1938. He is known as the patron of Poland.

The Gospel text chosen for the feast is part of the Discourse on “The Vine and the branches”. The love which the Father has for Jesus is the same love that Jesus has expressed and shown for his disciples. It is a love that is unconditional, a love without end. It is not merely a verbal expression, or an emotion, but a love that is shown tangibly and in every action that Jesus performs. The disciples have to act in the same manner as Jesus in order to make this love visible. There is only one commandment and that is the commandment to love. If the disciples keep this commandment, it will result in their being like Jesus, their master, who before them, revealed God’s love for the world.

This love is expressed in the most perfect of ways in the willingness to go to one’s death for the sake of a friend. The disciples are indeed friends of Jesus, as has been manifested in their keeping his command to love. It is important to note that Jesus is not placing a condition for friendship here (you can be my friends only if…); rather he is stating what and who the disciples are (because you are my friends, you do what I command).

The friendship that the disciples share with Jesus is grounded in love. This means that Jesus keeps back nothing from his disciples and reveals to them all that they need to know. His primary revelation to them has been of God as a loving and compassionate Father.

It is Jesus who has taken the initiative in calling and choosing the disciples and this fact reinforces the idea of grace. It is not one’s effort that can earn discipleship but the grace of God which, when received, results in one living out the call to discipleship. The living out of the call is not merely a once for all act, but something that is done constantly and with perseverance. This will ensure that the effects of their love are abiding and lasting. The last verse of today, with its reminder to “love one another”, forms an inclusion with the first.

Keeping the commandment of Jesus is thus not a chore or burden but done willingly because one has experienced this love first. The outcome of this sharing and manifestation of love is unbounded joy.

The word “love” has been a word that is used so often that it has been abused. We speak of our love for the good things of life, and of our love for the members of our family, and of our love for God in the same breath. “I love mixed vegetables” we might tell our spouse and, in the next breath, say “I love you”. Love is not primarily an emotion; it is not even a feeling, but reality. As a matter of fact, the only reality is love. Fear, which is regarded as the opposite of love, is not real, it is only an illusion. If there is fear, there cannot be love, and where there is love, there is no fear (1 Jn 4:18). While Paul gives a beautiful definition of love in 1 Cor 13:1-9, my own definition of love is simple, but not simplistic. “In love, there is no “I””.

The relationship that we share with God because of Jesus is one of sons and daughters. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, even friends. This is because he has given us everything in all its fullness. He held nothing back, not even his own self. The manifestation of this self-giving, which began with the incarnation, was completed and continued on the cross, and through his resurrection and ascension. He continues to give, even today. However, the giving is only one side of the story. Without a receiver, the gift has no value. This is why, while the grace of God given as a gift in Jesus is first, our reception of that gift is as important if the act of giving is to be completed. We show that we have received this gift when we, like Jesus, also dare to reach out in love. When we speak an enhancing word, perform a loving action, behave a little less selfishly, and a little more selflessly, then the gift is given and received, again and again.

Babola was able to receive and share this love with others and was willing to lay down his life for this love.

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