Dear friends. I begin by wishing all mothers a very happy Mother’s Day. Today we thank God for the gift of motherhood and thank you for all you do and for who you are. By listening to many mothers and fathers, something they often share is the love they have for their children that is so deep and unconditional. Sometimes this unconditional love is tested when their children don’t always meet their own expectations for one reason or another. Often the issue at stake is the apparent rejection of the faith their parents hold so dear. As priests, we too can identify with this pain as we live in a time when so many have chosen to stay away and not engage. But like the love of parents, no matter what happens or no matter how our children choose to live, we never stop loving them. We can do no other.
Today’s Gospel goes right to the heart of this gift of God’s unconditional love. It too speaks of the unconditional love of a Father for his Son and the giving away of that Son to a people who would reject him. Of course it refers to the love of the Father for Jesus and the sending of his Son to show us what unconditional love looks like: ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life’. And to see what that unconditional love looks like, we look no further than the cross – the instrument of torture and pain that represents the terrible rejection of the love of God by humanity, where we refused to believe and preferred darkness to light.
But here too is the mystery of God’s unconditional love – that even though God’s people can reject the love he offers, his only response is to offer that love and pour out that love again and again. And in this, the closest we come to seeing God’s love in action is in parents who love their children unconditionally.
It is much easier to love conditionally. I love you and if you love me back I will keep loving you. If you don’t love me back then I too will stop loving you. But this type of love is not very deep because it loves with the expectation of receiving back what it has given and if this doesn’t happen, resentment and anger can easily take hold. While unconditional love is much harder it is also much deeper and more authentic – made so often by patient suffering that makes room for those we love together with their mistakes and imperfections.
Behold this love of God on the wood of the cross! Behold this unconditional love of God revealed in Christ crucified! As we enter into the second half of Lent, let our hearts return to the source and the school of unconditional love that we find in Jesus crucified and forsaken – the God who loves us and continues to love us until his very last breath. Without Christ in our hearts, the risk is always of drifting back to loving conditionally not unconditionally. But before the image of the Son of God lifted up on the cross and by our faith in the unconditional love we find there, we are given the power to love again without conditions or limits.
For all you mothers and fathers who witness to that unconditional love, day in day out, we thank you!