You cannot make someone love you. One of the most painful realities of human existence, is when a person finds they love someone who does not love them. In the most difficult of these situations, the person in love seeks to do whatever it takes to make the other love them. It is painful and it is challenging.
Today’s readings remind us of the same is true for God. Only with God, it is that he chooses not to make us love him, but rather gives us the powerfully loving ability to reject him. It can be difficult for us to witness, because if you’re like me, there are times you wonder why God does not act more forcefully or powerfully. In this respect of the ultimate freedom God gives us, is sometimes used to demonstrate that there is no God.
Even though God gives us ultimate freedom, God never stops loving us. This is true even if we choose to do the most evil of things. God does truly love the sinner and hate the sin. This can be hard for us to understand and accept. I suspect somewhere in our heart is a desire that God will help us to get even. But God’s justice is not ours.
The hard part of following Jesus, is that we must imitate God. It can never be the case that we forget that the prime identity taken on by God’s love. As any child can tell you, an action of love does not always feel good. There are times when things done in love are hard for us to accept, because they are seeking to move us away from sin and towards a greater acceptance of the light that Jesus has come to give each one of us.
And so the gospel reminds us that when we proclaim the good news, it may not always be well received. There will be times when doing the loving thing, will result in persecution or difficulty. There will be times when our actions motivated by love will be scorned and hated. Such was true for Jesus, and the same will be true for us.
As a teacher, there have been moments where I have encountered students years after I had them in class. Some of the students struggled mightily in accepting the rules and doing those things necessary for learning. But in hindsight, they recognize how important and powerful was the discipline they learned from this particular situation, and the knowledge they now understand and apply in their own lives.
As a parent, many of you experienced the same thing. Not every decision a parent makes on behalf of their child brings happiness and joy to the child. In fact, I suspect there are moments that look downright ugly. But when children become mature adults, (and for those of you waiting for that to happen, it will) they often bring a different perspective to those difficult times where they were taught an important lesson.
For discipline is about teaching, discipline is about learning. Discipline occurs and is successful if it is grounded in love. If it is not, is simply punishment, something that is administered because of greater force or power. And so today, no of the power of God’s love, a love that is always present, even when they do not feel it.