Christ the King Catholic Church
There is a Broadway Musical which has been around for many, many years and I am sure that we are all familiar with it. I am certain that Bishop Chatard and all of our area high schools have staged it more than once over the years. The musical is “My Fair Lady.” And there is a particular song in the play that I think of when I hear today’s Gospel. Eliza Doolittle, the central character of the play, sings a song called, “Show Me.” And in that song she defiantly sings these words: “Don’t talk of stars burning above; if you’re in love, show me. Sing me no song, read me no rhyme, don’t waste any time, show me. Don’t talk of June, don’t talk at all. Show me!
I am 99.9 percent certain that when Alan Jay Lerner wrote the words to that song in 1956, he was not thinking of Saint John’s Gospel. But with equal certainty, I cannot read today’s Gospel without thinking of the words of that song! “If you’re in love, show me!” In essence that is what Jesus is saying to his disciples and to all of us. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Words are cheap. Actions speak louder than words. “If you love me, show me!”
Do we love Jesus? All of us would like to think that we do, but what does it mean? Sometimes we are talking of the sky above and making rhymes and singing songs, but do we love Jesus?
Some years ago, there was a bumper sticker that read, “Honk if you love Jesus.” And every time I saw that bumper sticker on a car, I was tempted to honk, but I don’t know that I actually ever did. I was afraid that the driver in front of me at the stoplight would have forgotten that he or she had the sticker on the bumper and would have seen my honking as a sign of impatience. I was afraid that people around me might think that I was a religious fanatic. But in my defense, honking the horn didn’t seem to say much about my loving Jesus. It’s too easy to simply toot the horn. In fact, just saying the words, “I love you,” is also too easy – at least in a safe place like church here. “If you love me, show me…” What does it mean to love Jesus?
Jesus never seemed to put a lock of stock in words. If we look at the Gospels, we find that, time and time again, Jesus linked love to action and if the love wasn’t there, he cared very little for the words. In chapter seven of Saint Matthew’s Gospel he tells us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven,”
I’m not saying that words aren’t important. Surely we need to tell people that we love them. Those three little words, spoken sincerely, can change the color of our day.
I remember years ago a couple who had celebrated more than 50 years of marriage came to see me. The wife had threatened to leave ‘Mr. Wonderful,’ and that was the only reason that he reluctantly agreed to meet with the parish priest. The wife shared her frustration that the husband never told her that he loved her. Even after she would repeatedly profess her love for him, he would remain silent. She longed to hear him say those three little words. When I tried to nudge a few words from ‘Mr. Wonderful,’ I’ll never forget what he said, “I told her I loved her 50 years ago, wasn’t that enough? “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus.” When John Gray wrote that book in 1992, he was on to something!
On the one hand. I appreciated what the husband had said. When he spoke his vows 50 years before, he meant what he said – for better or for worse, until death do we part. Finished.
But I also understood the wife. My sense was that just as the husband wasn’t very good at expressing his love in words, he probably wasn’t all that good at showing that love either. We talked about little gestures like flowers and candy and hold hands. And by the look on his face, he definitely thought I was from another planet!
We were so blessed here at Christ the King to have had the beautiful example of Joe and Helen Kurker. They lived just down the street from us on Crittenden and would come to the Tuesday evening Mass and Sunday morning Mass walking hand in hand. That simple gesture spoke volumes. How great it would be for all of our married couples to come and to leave church hand in hand. And I know that all the husbands out there are now certain that I come from another planet!
But if we think about it, Jesus is calling all of us to live as if we came from another planet. We call that planet heaven. And in heaven love isn’t simply a noun, but a verb. Love expresses itself in action.
And Jesus reminds us today that our love for him is expressed by keeping his commandments. That starts with the Ten Commandments which Jesus once told us he did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. The Ten Commandments tell us how to love God and how to love neighbor. These commandments stand forever and so we need to know them and to meditate on them. But that is not enough. The Pharisees obeyed the Ten Commandments scrupulously, but never pretended to love Jesus. We have to go beyond the Old Testament commandments to the New Testament.
I’m sure that this is what Jesus had in mind when he talked about a ‘new’ commandment. He had given it to his disciples the very night to which today’s Gospel refers. It wasn’t very long, but it is the most challenging commandment ever given. Here is what he said. “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” This is the way – the only way that we can show our love for the Lord. Love one another as he has loved us.
Jesus asks us to live our lives as he lived his – with a fundamental openness to others. To live our lives with grace and to show that grace to others doing what Saint Paul tells us to do at the very end of his beautiful reflection on love in First Corinthians, “Love,” he tells us, when all is said and done, “endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things, bears all things.” No where do we see this love more perfectly displayed than in Jesus on the cross. The greatest love the world has ever seen is not a noun, but a verb.
We show our love for the Lord, not just with words, but with actions. We show our love for the Lord by loving others. People are hungry and need to be fed. People are discouraged and need our courage. What does Peter tell us in today’s second reading? “Always be ready to share with others the reason for the hope that is within you.” People are lonely and need to be befriended. People are sick and need to be cared for.
Eliza Doolittle said it well in “My Fair Lady,” and Jesus says it perfectly in today’s Gospel. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” It would be good for all of us to find some time today to ask ourselves what that love looked like this past week, and, at the same time, to ask what that love will look like in this coming week.
And just in case you were wondering, the couple I referred to earlier have now marked over seventy years of wedded bliss. And I’ll never forget the Sunday after we had met together. They came to church as they had faithfully done all through their married life. As I was greeting people after Mass, the wife looked at me with a smile as wide as the Rio Grande, and the husband, well the husband looked at me and grunted in my direction. And as I looked at them, I saw that ‘Mr. Wonderful’ was holding his wife’s hand. I took that as a miracle!
“If you love me, show me!”
This is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross, and this is what he does for us in each and every Eucharist. “There is no greater love.” “If you love me, show me.” At the end of Mass today, Deacon Michael will dismiss us and in that dismissal he will send us forth to love one another as Jesus has loved us. This is the commandment that we have been given, and this is the way in which we show our love for Jesus.