Sunday, July 16, 2017

Working out Love

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Why is it so hard to love other people?

Have you ever tried to count the number of negative thoughts that we have against other people? It’s an interesting exercise, and one that is good discipline especially when examining ourselves ready for confession. Somehow we need to step back from what we’re thinking and actually look at the thoughts themselves, their content, their direction, their origin.

Often it’s not very pleasant. Yet, how often do we forget that God knows every thought of our hearts? Further, how much more do we forget Our Lord’s words, “whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

That’s a bit of a worry, isn’t it?


We have to face facts: we are fallen beings. Our thoughts are fallen. Even the very best of us have thoughts that are not palatable and which would make the most horrible Horror Film look like the Care Bears’ Picnic. How can we really love other people? How can we want our worst enemy honestly to be our brother?

The mistake that we make is that love is not a feeling that we should possess. It actually comes from what we consciously want to happen. The love that we need to have for other people is rooted in the desire and longing to do good for other people. You’ll hear people say, “the pathway to Hell is paved with good intentions.” They’re wrong, the pathway to Hell is paved with selfish desires masquerading as good intentions. That which is truly Good has its source in God and returns to God bearing fruit in abundance.
We have to want other people’s good in order to do love. St Peter says, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”

As Christians, we must be all of one mind, that is to support each other in that intent to do good. We gather together to pray and receive Christ and that must be where we receive that common mind to bring the love of God into our communities and for those who live around us. In receiving Our Lord in the sacrament, we are united with Him and must seek to be of one mind with Him. We need to look to agree, not insist on disagreeing, but always to submit our thinking to what Our Lord teaches us in His Church.
We must love as brethren. We will not see people as our brothers and sisters initially, and certainly not without the grace of God, but we can purpose to live our lives as if they were our brothers and sisters and allow any grace that God gives us to grow.

To do this, St Peter tells us to be pitiful by which he means that we should look upon our brethren as people who have fallen and are in the same dire need for Christ’s salvation as we are. We should not berate them for their shortcomings, but live with them as they must live with our shortcomings. St Peter is telling us to be sympathetic – in fact this is the word he uses in the Greek!

We need to be courteous, considerate of where others are. This does not just mean opening the door for a little old lady, but rather to be aware of what help or assistance someone else might actually need. It means to take active thought for other people in their situations. It means that we need to be friendly, approachable.

We have to repel evil by not letting it take control of us. If someone does something evil to us, why on earth should we allow the amount of evil to increase by doing the same? We can only ever hope to fight Evil with Good, and we can only know what is truly Good by being of one mind with God.


Yes, our secret sins may well be aired in public, but surely, if we’ve tried to be compassionate, sought to do good, looked out for others, surely they will look at us with the same compassion. But then, it’s God who will look at us with pity, compassion and, above all, mercy, forgiveness and love. We may and should cry for our sins, but our tears will be wiped away because we have shed them for the love of God.

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