We cannot share what we have not first received, and after the Resurrection the great news that the apostles proclaimed was very simple. Peter puts it all into context in today's First Reading, "God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him." Love is not something we create; it is, instead,a gift from God to which we respond. It is a gift given; but once given it remains a gift only if it is shared.
Jesus understood his ministry in terms of setting people free. He was never concerned about winning back God's friendship or changing God's mind about His people. Rather all of his words and activities were about changing people's minds and hearts - about changing people's thoughts and images about God and how they see themselves in relation to Him and to one another.
To love as Jesus loved is no easy task. We are all influenced by our own likes or dislikes - our own preferences or prejudices. Easy or not, this is how others will know that we are His followers. The God who is Love has commanded us to love in the same manner.
It is not easy to love. It is not easy to put another's needs before our own. The command to love as Christ loved sounds like an ideal almost impossible to attain - yet in God's plan of things, we are called to be a people whose quiet, patient and sometimes turbulent lives speak loudly about this overwhelming and un-ending love.
Jesus was a champion to those on the fringe - considered by some to be a prophet, a rabbi and teacher to others, the Son of God to those who came to know Him well. And He was a very troublesome embarrassment to those in mainstream religion.
But His life was one big embrace. Jesus lived to bring hope, and peace, and compassion. He came to set people free from fear and ignorance. He died for those in prison, for the homeless, for the poor, the prostitutes and sinners, the rejected and the despised. He took time to heal those possessed, the leprous, the dying. He loved them as much as he loved all.
And His command to love one another takes on a communal character in our lives as we struggle each day together in our journey of faith. We are challenged to love all people regardless of whether we like them or not; regardless of whether they have hurt us; regardless of whether they share our beliefs, or customs, or way of life.
By commanding us to love, Jesus asks us to become instruments of something we didn't fully expect and of something we can never fully understand. On our journey we meet many ordinary people we simply don't take to. We do meet people who have deeply hurt us. We do meet people who we actively dislike. That's the journey we are taking.
The message of Jesus is quite simple: Love God and love each other. There is no need for us to refine, redefine or wrap this message with our own theological concepts of what He was talking about.
This Love should be a fire that consumes us, one that leaves us looking for more ways to love. There are no rules and regulations for this love. It is God's Spirit that enables us to experience God’s love and then find ways we can best express it to others.
The message remains, and the challenge is still before us: remain in my love, stay with me...learn from me. The possibilities are many and we will each have to find our own way to “remain” in Christ's love. But this is the work to which we are called. This is the kingdom that this risen Jesus invites us to experience.