Many years ago, the movie “The Fiddler on the Roof” was very popular. The film told the beautiful and sometimes dramatic story of a Russian Jewish family living in a small village during the time that Communism came to power in their country.
As the movie unfolds, the three daughters of the family begin to marry, each one deviating more and more from the customs and traditions of the Jewish people of that time. Hence, we heard some lovely lyrics as “matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…”
One of the most meaningful parts of the movie takes place when Tevye asks his wife Golde, “Do you love me?” Golde responds in a funny way by asking, “Do I what?” Tevye asks again, “Do you love me?” A lovely song ensues between the husband and wife. Golde sings, “Do you I love you? For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow; after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”
The point of this charming song illustrates the theme of this Sunday’s Gospel passage: love is practical. Love is not an ideal. Love is not wishful thinking. Love is not something out there on another planet. Love does not consist of empty words. Love is expressed with acts of love.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14: 15). Christianity is practical. Christianity is a way of life. We show our love for Jesus by our actions.
Jesus tells us how to live our lives. Our daily actions are a thermometer of how much we truly love the Lord Jesus. The practice of the virtues of faith, hope, charity, humility, obedience and purity are all gospel virtues that need to be lived out in our daily lives. Every one of our actions must stem from this one supernatural motivation: my love for Christ.
A long time ago, the novice instructor of a novitiate for a religious order of men wanted to teach his novices the importance of this one fundamental principle of the Christian way of life: love for Christ.
All of the novices had assigned duties. One was in charge of the kitchen, another one the laundry, another the sacristy and another the yard work, etc.
Aside from the major responsibilities of the house, each novice had smaller tasks assigned to them as well. One novice was given the task of watering a small plant in the reception area of the novitiate. All the novice had to do was to water the little plant every day.
Unfortunately, the novice was kind of a space cadet, so he forgot all about the little plant, and the plant died. He eventually went to his superior and informed him of the regrettable outcome of his assigned task.
The novice instructor wanted to use the situation as moment to teach his students about the love for Christ, so when the novice asked for a penance, the superior seized the opportunity at hand. He told the novice to place the flowerpot with the dead plant on his desk in the classroom. Next to the plant, he was to place a little card that read: “This is a sign of my love for Christ.”
The flowerpot with the card remained on his desk for one week. The lesson was well learned.
My dear friends, every day our actions are to show our love for the Lord. However, we all know that this is not easy to do. Christianity is difficult. Christianity is not comfortable. Look at the crucifix.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14: 15). There are many times that we do not love the Lord the way we should. There are many times that we love ourselves even more. Married people many times do not love each other the way they should. They sometimes argue and quarrel, and then one says to the other, “I’m sorry.”
When we do not love Jesus the way we should, we make a deep act of humility by going to confession. We kneel down and we say to Jesus that we are sorry. His love is so deep for us that he always tells us that he forgives us. He gives us the strength to continue the journey, to get up again and love even more than we did before. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14: 15).
My dear friends, like the movie “The Fiddler on the Roof,” Christianity is a love story. It is a love story between the God of love and the disciple whom he calls to journey through life towards the eternal Easter in heaven where there is only love.
Each one of us is free. God has given us the gift of freedom. Thus, we all respond to God’s love in many different ways. Some people are very generous and others are not.
The Gospels provide a dramatic display of how people responded to God’s love.
The rich young man walked away from Jesus when he was called to love even more deeply. Mary, the mother of Jesus, responded immediately when she was called to be the instrument of the Incarnation.
Peter, a good man with sincere intentions and flawed by human weakness, repented and loved the Lord with greater fidelity. John was known for his delicate fidelity, but even he ran away at Gethsemane and left the Lord alone. However, he did return and stood exactly where every sincere disciple of the Lord needs to be: at the foot of the Cross.
Mary Magdalen, a public sinner, was given the gift of conversion and became the first witness of the Resurrection.
There are two obstacles that keep us from loving the Lord Jesus as we should. The first obstacle is apathy.
The other obstacle is the spirit of relativism that is so pervasive in our society. Relativism really does cause a lot of confusion and uncertainty.
The Easter season that we are celebrating reminds us once again that Christianity is practical. Christianity is a way of life. We show our love for Jesus by our actions. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”