"If You Love Until It Hurts..."
In 1994, St. Mother Teresa visited the United States, and she spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. During her speech, she said this:
Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us -- to save us from our selfishness and sin. He gave up everything to do the Father's will, to show us that we too must … to give up everything to do God's will -- to love one another as He loves each one of us. If we are not willing to give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it hurts. It is not enough to say -- for us to say: "I love God." But I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me; and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.
Today, we hear of two widows, both of whom are giving more than we might expect them to give – even as good, holy women. After all, the woman in Zeraphath is experiencing a drought, along with everyone else. She has exhausted her resources and has a rather grim outlook. The widow in Jesus’ time would have been in a very similar situation. Widows typically relied on others for their support, and certainly didn’t have excess to share themselves. If either of these women held on to the little that they had, we certainly would have understood – probably would not have even batted an eye.
However, that is not what happens, and these women are presented to us today as examples. The woman in the Gospel also convicts the giving of the comfortable, who like the benefits and the prestige of their positions but do no real impactful good. They are still giving something – usually, as Jesus notes, from their surplus wealth. There is little to no sacrifice in that giving, and in our tradition, where there is no sacrifice, there can be no true worship.
As Mother Teresa said, “It is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt.” Do we love truly? Whom do we truly love? Last week, Jesus pointed out that the first commandment is to love God above all things with all that you are – your whole livelihood, we might say. And intimately connected to that is the duty to love our neighbor. That love is the same word for love of God and love of neighbor, not some different brand. And it must be true.
Friends, the Gospel is challenging us – seriously challenging us. Do we give until it hurts? Are we willing to offer the very last drop of who and what we are and have because of love? In the Gospel toaday, the word that Jesus uses for the widow’s “livelihood” is “bios”(whence we get “biology”), it means physical life, the totality of who we are. That is what the woman was giving – the very last of who she was. For Jesus, there is no other way. On the cross, He gave all that He is and has to the Father for us. That is why it is the perfect act of sacrifice and worship. However, we are also called to imitate that love and give everything as well. Now, I am not going to raid your pockets and bank accounts; however, I am looking to raid your hearts – on behalf of Jesus – to draw out those “last drops” of love that we all have to offer.
Next week, we will be hosting the Winter Relief Shelter at St. Bernadette. This program, as many of you know, supports and comforts the needs of our local homeless, and it is a source of much grace for both the guests and the host parishes. We still have several vital positions empty for this coming week, and we need people to fill them. I am not going to say, “If you feel called to help” because that is not accurate from a Christian perspective. You are called! I am calling you now; Jesus is calling you – just like Elijah called to that widow to help him even in her own need. We are called to give our “bios” – our very life – for others! There are also many blessings awaiting us if we do give.
Mother Teresa also said, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” In my own life – and I believe you probably have experienced this too – I have found that when I completely trust in God, whether financially, emotionally, or ministerially, He has blessed me more than I can imagine. That is what is waiting for those poor widows; that is what is waiting for the homeless whom we will serve; and that is what is waiting for each of us. May we be filled with love – true love – in order to do that good that God wants to do through us!