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The Hardest Deepest Love

Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle

First Reading: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and sisters
(there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place).
He said, “My brothers and sisters,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
Judas was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.
For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

Let his encampment become desolate,
and may no one dwell in it.
and:
May another take his office.

Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (8) The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the name of the LORD to be praised.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high
and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor
To seat them with princes,
with the princes of his own people.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.

Gospel: John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

NAB

DEV_MA14

“This is my commandment, love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”

Laying down your life for another is heavy stuff. Soldiers, police officers, and firemen do this every day. But they’re not the only ones who put their lives on the line. Mothers and wives follow this command despite knowing their actions are often unseen and unheralded.

My daughter Courtney was a special young woman. Starting at five weeks old, seizures attacked her everyday. She never spoke or walked. She lived in her wheelchair and couldn’t care for herself. So even though I had a toddler and a husband in the Navy, I did what needed to be done. Some days were good, but many sent me to my knees in exhaustion and fear. I spent night after night begging God to end this suffering.

Not knowing what each day would bring required a trust in the Lord that this stubborn Irish/German Mama fought. I wanted a normal life. I wanted to experience the world. But because my daughter’s daily care was so intensive, I barely left the house. For twenty-three years I was pretty much homebound.

At first I was resentful and angry. But God had a plan. When Courtney was seven, God showed me that loving my daughter required a hero’s heart. He asked me to sacrifice my dreams, to humble myself, in order to care for my daughter. For as long as it took.

Every day I had to choose between what I wanted and what God asked of me. Every day I could either see the joy in my circumstances or give into the fear. But when I chose Courtney’s laughter, cheering her developmental goals, my life changed. When I chose to see her dignity and celebrate her humanity, laying down my desires became easier and easier. In time, I discovered more joy than I ever thought possible.

But choosing to ditch my dreams wasn’t easy. I fought daily battles until loving and caring for her without resentment became my life’s goal. God provided everything needed for her care and although we still faced many difficulties—medical and financial—He blessed me with a glorious life with my beautiful child. When it was over, my time with Courtney felt like 23 days instead of 23 years. With His help and grace, the burden became light indeed.

Even though my daughter died over a year ago, every day I’m grateful for the lesson she and God taught me—that sacrificing yourself is the most heroic way to love.

How is God asking you to trust Him today? What are you angry about or afraid of? Call upon the mercy and grace of Our Lord and fight to love without resentment, or holding anything back. Fight to love as God loves us.

photo credit

Mary Lenaburg married her first (and only) blind date going on 27 years ago, is a full-time liturgy coordinator, and parents one adult son navigating his path on earth and a special needs daughter safely in Heaven. You can find out more about her here.

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