I came across a poem in my reading this week. It says quite simply:
Even after all this time,
the sun never says to the earth:
You owe me.
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky. (2X)
Like Jesus’ invitation at the end of today’s gospel to invite into your world those who cannot repay you, this brief poem invites us into a completely different world than we are accustomed to. Undercutting the endless scrabbling for position and prestige that continues in our day – Jesus would have us know another truth. “Let your love be like the sun that lights up the whole sky. Let your love be such that it doesn’t matter who you sit with at a wedding reception or a birthday banquet or even a Wednesday lunch at the Nosh.” For when a love like that is unleashed upon the world, then the heavenly banquet has begun.
You can call that love “humility” as Sirach does in the first reading. You can describe it as the author to Hebrews does: it is what it means to approach the city of the living God. Or you name it as advice about how to not get trapped in the honor game as Jesus does. But the result is the same. We become free to love because of what that loving does to us, how it frees US, how it expresses the best of whom we are and who we hope to be. When we love not worrying about a return, or reward or what might make us look good, we become that sun that brightens the whole sky.
If there was one freedom I would wish for you during your college years, it is precisely that – that you come to know someone who loves you as the sun loves the earth, someone who loves you SO freely, without strings and expectations – that it lights your whole world in delight. Don’t settle for anything less than a love like that, because it will call you to be your best and truest self.
And if there is one person whom I pray that you meet these years – it is the one whose arms are stretched wide upon that cross, and whose Body and Blood we are invited to partake of here at this altar. Because we know what happens with a love like that [point to Jesus on the cross]– it redeems and embraces the whole world.
And if you would like to be free enough to invite EVERYONE to your table, not worried about who will see you or what they will think about your friends, then take a lesson from the sun this week. Take a moment to stand in its rays (once it gets below 100 degrees). Feel how freely it warms you, gives life to you and this planet, and never once says: “You owe me.” Let the sun’s love, and the Son’s love we know at this altar, wash over you, fill you with its light, fill you with its power.
With a love like this (gesture to altar and cross), look what might happen to us – we could light the entire UMSL campus, even the entire world with His light reflected through us…