Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily 6-3-21

Deacon Steven M. Johnson – St. James, Belvidere, IL
Homily for the 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 6-3-21, Year B
Charles Lwanga and Companions – Martyrs
READINGS: 1st Tb 6:10-11, 7:1bcde, 9-17; 8:4-9a; Gospel Mk 12:28-34
Theme: Agape Love

Good people do evil things and evil things happen to good people. When evil strikes what will be the response from us? Many people, especially our young people today, do not know where to turn when evil strikes them or affects them or their loved ones. If they do not know God, or worse, do not believe in Him, they are at great risk of losing themselves to desperate measures. They are missing a critical component, love. It is up to us to help them come to know love, which is God Himself.

When we truly love someone, and they in turn love us back in the same way, there is a freedom in that love. There is a liberation from the woes of our life. There is a contentment that comes from giving of ourselves to that other person. When we give love, and in turn receive love back, it strengthens us.

But what happens when we give love, but we receive nothing back? Do we still draw strength and liberation from that “unconditional” love? The answer is yes because of God’s love for us. Today’s readings express exactly that.

When love extends beyond emotion, is more than a feeling or sentiment, when it is active and spontaneous, without condition and given unreservedly to those who are undeserving, it is called Agape love. This kind of love is the love God has for us and is demonstrated in one of the most popular verses in the Bible, John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” 

When we love God back in this way we are strengthened against all evil, and those evils can be removed from us. For those who do not know God’s Agape love for them or have any kind of love to give back to Him, they risk the dangers that evil can do to their soul. They can be consumed by hopelessness and despair and feel there is nowhere to turn except to death.

Sarah was possessed by an evil spirit that killed her previous seven husbands because each was a love of lust and not of God or neighbor. Tobias, with the help of Raphael, knew that for Sarah to be set free she needed to find love in God first. So, when they prayed to God for healing and a good life together, God, through Raphael, removed the demon. It was in that moment that Tobias and Sarah experienced the Agape love of God and the healing strength that came from it.

Jesus, too, reveals the two Old Testament laws of love for God and love for neighbor. He makes them into one combined law that all other laws proceed from. It is the law of Agape love.

St. Charles Lwanga and his companions knew Agape love for God when they gave their lives in 1886 at the hand of King Mwanga in Uganda, Africa. They knew their love extended beyond their human lives here on earth because it was Agape love they had for God.

Love God first with everything you have, beyond emotion and sentiment, actively, without conditions, unreservedly, and be spontaneous with this love in every moment. Then extend this love to your neighbor, your wife or husband, children, and all you meet. When you do this everything else falls into place and, if it be God’s Will, God’s angels will guide you, release you from your own demons and give you freedom and contentment in knowing that God loves you with the highest definition of love, Agape love.

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL