First Reading: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 98:1-4
O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Second Reading: 1 John 4:7-10
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.
Gospel: John 15:9-17
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.
It sounds so simple; there must be a catch. Simply love one another? Got it. Done. Next?
The rub for me comes when it is 9:46pm on Sunday night and my almost 5-year-old is awake still, needing extra comfort, needing extra snuggles, needing more of me and I do not want to give it. Love him? How about scream Mama needs you to sleep so she can just breathe!!!!! Not confirming whether or not that transpired, but it's an easy go-to example for a parent of small children. Their needs are semi-insatiable and our time is never our own. Love them, respect them, and keep your temper to yourself.
Or what about your neighbor? That one whose life choices differ from yours and with whom you have very little in common. At the block BBQ, love them? Be respectful and loving when they acted insanely a few years back about blocking off the street when you had guests arriving for a party? Yes. Love them, too.
And your family? When you are tempted, oh-so-sorely tempted, to be judgmental about how they're going about their lives? Love them, too. Keeping that commandment of abiding in the Father's love isn't so easy when you don't feel like it.
Perhaps it distills to the notion that love isn't a fancy or a feeling, but rather a decision and an action. To choose to love and come from a place of love in all your interactions, child, neighbor, family, adult, lovers, enemies, whomever, that's the commandment. To love when it feels better to be snide. To love when you're justifiably loathing. To love so that you retrain your neurons to fire along the love-pathways and not the hate ones. Neurons that fire together wire together. Jesus had something wise going on here.
Repeatedly making the decision to love will make you and me become more delightful people. And who doesn't have room to grow in that department? Choose love. You won't regret it.
Nell O'Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.