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Unselfish Love – A Reflection

April 6, 2020
A painting of Archbishop Oscar Romero in Balmy Alley in San Francisco, California

As I ponder Holy Week and the journey of Jesus towards the cross I am struck by a number of things. Even though he would be betrayed by his friends, he never stopped loving them. Doesn’t this reflect the grace of God which says that love is not earned but rather is freely given without cost?

I have been reading and hearing stories about so many people who are quietly stepping up to the plate during this Pandemic to do what they are called to do. Yes they are paid (not always very well mind you) but what they do each and every day can’t be measured in dollars. Despite the low pay, they step up to the plate to serve.

As I hear about first responders, medical care providers, and restaurants and grocery store workers who are dying from COVID-19 it breaks my heart. Often without adequate protective gear they went into the trenches day after day for you and for me. Self-sacrificing love of the type which Jesus talked about in John 15:13-14 — “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Only while Jesus was talking about laying one’s life down for one’s friends, didn’t he lay down his life for so many more? Yes, Jesus laid down his life for all. While I have used this passage when officiating at funerals and memorial services for military members who were killed in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and so many other places around the world; this applies equally to the folks I mentioned who are dying while helping this nation stay safe and well fed. They truly died for strangers. What greater or more selfless love is there than that? I truly believe these are examples of unselfish love which we can all learn from and even make a part of our daily living.

In the opening chapter of No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton said the following about such love: A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found: for a happiness that is diminished by being shared is not big enough to make us happy…True happiness is found in unselfish love, a love which increases in proportion as it is shared. There is no end to the sharing of love, and, there for, the potential happiness of such love is without limit. Infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. (p. 3)

As we walk towards Passover, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday may we pause to reflect on how we can be agents of God’s extravagant love to one another and to strangers. That is how love is shared, dear reader… without cost and extravagantly…even with strangers and yes, even with enemies.

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