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  • Writer's pictureFr. Austin

Love Makes a Family



One of my favorite movies is “The Muppet Movie,” from 1979. It tells the familiar American tale of the rise from rags to riches, from obscurity to fame of Kermit the Frog and his friends, as they journey across the country to Hollywood. However, Kermit must face the constant threat of a man named “Doc Hopper.” Hopper owns a chain of frog-leg restaurants and wants Kermit to help him promote it. Naturally, Kermit has reservations.


Hopper pursues Kermit and his friends until they finally meet in a showdown in an Old West town. Hopper tells Kermit that all along, all he ever wanted was to make his dream of a successful restaurant come true. Kermit responds in kind:


“Yeah, well, I’ve got a dream too. But it’s about singing and dancing and making people happy. That’s the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with. And, well, I’ve found a whole bunch of friends who have the same dream.


“And it kind of makes us a family.”

 

This call to family is what we are about as well. We are a family of faith, and Saint Peter recognizes that “God shows no partiality” in bringing people into this family. All it takes is that we share the dream – that we share the vision of Jesus Christ and live that vision out as disciples. This “dream” is the message that Jesus came to share with us all – that God loves us, and that this love is meant to be shared. That is why Jesus commands us to “love one another.”


The love that Jesus calls us to share is more than the romantic love that two people might feel for one another. That love, while good and wonderful, is not the perfect love we are looking for. It is more than the love I might feel for well-crafted movie or a pizza. Rather, this love – this dream of Jesus’ – is a love that wills what is good for someone else. In fact, as I remember, one of the most endearing ways to say “I love you” in Italian is “Ti voglio bene”, or “I wish good things for you.” This love is not something that just “happens” – it is something that two people (or even groups of people) must “do.” A popular writer about Christian and chaste love uses the example of a married couple.


“If love is simply about having romantic feelings, how could a bride and groom promise each other that their marriage will last ‘until death do us part’? More likely, it will last until boredom do us part. Therefore, you cannot determine the worth of a relationship by measuring the intensity of emotions” (J. Evert, If You Really Loved Me, pp. 41-42).

 

He goes on to say that this love is really proven when the pregnant wife awakens the husband with a craving for ice cream, pickles, and beef jerky at 2AM. That love does not simply “happen”! That is a love that “does.”


When Jesus commands us to love one another, this love cannot be constrained to simply those closest to us, or to those whom we find easiest to love – people with whom we are comfortable or of whom we approve. Again, that is based simply on feelings. Rather, this kind of love – a love that wills what is good for someone else – can be commanded and practiced with everyone, even our enemies, because it is something that requires more than emotions.


When Cornelius, who is a Roman official, wants to join the ranks of the new Church, he is welcomed not only by the community, but by God. The Holy Spirit comes upon the whole place, and Peter recognizes that God shows no preferences in His love. So too must we love, as Jesus tells us, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”


We remain in Jesus’ love as long as we continue to share His dream – a dream of a world united in love. This is not just some unrealistic Utopian aspiration that we are supposed to pine away for but never realize. To be sure, it is not easy; it won’t just “happen.” It is something that we must “do.” The Reign of God is about justice and peace and, above all, love.


This is the kind of dream that – as Kermit says – “gets better the more people you share it with.”


Jesus gives us His commandment, and He has given us the example. That is His dream, and it is a dream that we all share now.


And it kind of makes us a family.

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