You shall love. You shall love. You shall love. To love is worth more than burnt offerings. Love, and you are not far from God’s kingdom. Love God. Love neighbor. Love. Love.
According to the readings, Sunday is the Sunday of Love. The first reading commands love. The gospel reading commands love. And the second reading has to do with love, too. In Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church, we read, about ourselves:
Christ the Lord, a High Priest taken from among men, made a kingdom and priests to God His Father out of His new people…All the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God, should offer themselves as a loving sacrifice, by receiving the sacraments, by thanksgiving, by the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity. (Lumen Gentium 10)
Okay, ready? We just had Sprint Cup day, here in these parts. Jimmie Johnson!
I guess there are some people who do not understand the profound significance of the circular nature of the sport. Some people think it’s just a bunch of cars gong around and around, making a great deal of noise.
Maybe on one level, that’s what it is. Round and round, with a lot of fumes. But can we really fail to grasp the deep symbolism?
First, the circle of faith and charity. The loop of faith and charity. Faith and charity racing round and round and round. Let me explain.
Our High Priest, Christ, offers the sacrifice of infinite charity—Himself. In His Sacred human Heart, Christ loves the Father with the infinite love, the Holy Spirit. Our priesthood, our definitive act, the meaning of our lives: to share in the love of Christ’s Sacred Heart. To love God and neighbor with His love.
But: Do we see our priest, the source of our love? Do we taste or touch or feel Him? No. We believe in Him. Christian love? No such thing—without faith. We love with the love of the divine man in Whom we believe. We believe in the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, none of whom we can see. We believe in Christ’s sacraments, which give us invisible grace. Without faith, we have no access whatsoever to divine love.
But it’s a circle. We zip around this holy racecourse at high speeds. Because the God in Whom we believe commands love. Our faith demands love. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love with all your heart, soul, and strength. Christian faith? No such thing—without love. “Show me your faith without works, [not likely!] and I will show you my faith by my works,” as St. James puts it. Faith-love. Faith-love. Faith-love. Like NASCARs zipping around the track in a visible and invisible circle.
But there’s more. There’s the circle of love itself, the loop of charity. We exercise our holy priesthood of Christian love by loving. We love God; we love each other. We do it; we love with our own hearts, our own souls. If we really love, it costs us our very own blood, sweat, and tears. If I say I love, and it’s not really me loving, then what kind of love would that be? Robots can’t love. Only people can love, with our own hearts freely choosing the good of the beloved, offering ourselves to the beloved.
But how can we love God without Him loving us first? We wouldn’t even know Him, if He did not love us enough to reveal Himself to us. And how can we love our neighbors selflessly; how can we love like Christians love, if the power of generous love did not descend upon us from on high first? As we heard St. John tell us on Thursday, “Beloved, see what love the Father has bestowed on us!” We don’t have what it takes to love like Christians—not on our own we don’t.
So: the divine and human circle of love. God-man. God-man. God-man. Love racing around and around the loop that binds heaven and earth, like Jimmy Johnson breaking the sound barrier, and light speed, and the time-space continuum, and going to Jesus and back on one tank of gas.
And of course there is the great loop of love among ourselves. No human being can be so selfless in loving that he or she can live without also being loved. When we are first born, we need the tender love of our parents, or else we die. And from that point on, our need for love just grows more and more intense.
With God’s help, we reach the point that our Holy Father Benedict described in his first encyclical on Christian charity. Our human lives intertwine so much, we live in such solidarity with our fellowman, that “reaching out” and “being reached out to” become practically indistinguishable from each other. We love and are loved all at the same time, because we have no “I” without “we,” no “me” without “us.”
Big circle. Love-be loved. Love-be loved. Love-be loved.
We could really beat this NASCAR-analogy horse to death. But, in truth, the great circle never ends. It moves eternally. It makes everything, and it makes everything good.
The Father loves the Son, and the son the Father, and the love is the Holy Spirit. Eternal, indivisible, unified, one. Infinite love loving infinite love with infinite love. The triune speedway of limitless, selfless, absolute, generous good.