Matthew 9:36-10:8
God's Love
by Rev. Jack Peterson

Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

Home Page
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest."

Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.  The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebeedee, and brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, "Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.  Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.  Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.  The laborer deserves his keep.

Last month, we celebrated Mother's Day.  Fittingly, I took the opportunity to reflect upon the incredible gift that my mother, Nancy, was to me.  She died in 2008 and, God willing, rests now with the Lord and all the angels and saints in heaven.  What always stands out to me is how much my mother loved me as her son.

My mother's love for me ran wonderfully deep.  It was unique - I did not feel like her love was the same for me as it was for my three sisters.  She loved me for being Jack Jr.  Her love was nourishing - the scrumptious dinners, amazing school lunches and hearty breakfasts very lovingly nourished my growing body.  But, Mom desired to nourish the whole of me, so, she stayed on top of my school-work, made sure I had plenty of time for friends, took me to church on Sundays, supported my great love for sports and sacrificed her desires so that I could attend Catholic schools.

My mother's love was tremendously encouraging.  She really believed in me.  She focused on and praised me for my gifts and talents.  She spoke highly of me to friends and neighbors.  She gave me confidence to excel in my activities, try new things and pursue dreams.  Mom's love was sacrificial.  My siblings and I were her priority in life.  She never pursued regular hobbies, worked long hours outside the home, or complained about driving me all over Virginia for sporting events or doing my laundry.  My mother's love was empathetic.  She always had a special place in her heart for those who were hurting or wandering.  When she accidentally slammed the door on my finger at the start of our vacation, she hurt more than I did.  It ruined her vacation.  She could not stand seeing me in pain.

On Mother's Day, I thanked God for the gift of my mother.  (Yes, I did the same on Father's Day for Jack Sr.)  But, I also pondered the truth that my mother's great love for me opened my mind, heart and soul to the love that God has for me.

Christ's love for us is so much greater than the love of our parents.  After all, God is love itself.  He is the origin of all true love.  All love flows from him as a fountain welling up to eternal life.  Indeed, the Holy Trinity is the source of my mother's amazing love.  It is perfect love - without any hint of sin or selfishness, totally oriented toward the other.  It is infinite, perfectly consistent and never fails.  It is unique - each of us is a precious child of the Father and a one-of-a-kind brother or sister to Jesus.

God's tender mercy certainly stands out among the ways he loves as.  Paul speaks of this grace in our first reading from Romans: "But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for ;us,"  God's love for us is so deep that no matter how often or how horribly we sin, he is willing to forgive us when we express genuine contrition for our sins.  His death on the cross has been both the symbol and the manifestation of that amazing, merciful love for some 2,000 years.

God's love for us is empathetic.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit looked down from heaven upon humanity and grasped the depth of our misery.  They looked with love upon our darkness, hurt, brokenness, anger, selfishness and blindness.  In their perfect wisdom and love, the decided to do something essentially unimaginable - the son of God was sent to earth take on our human nature in order to heal, restore and raise it to new heights.  John, the Evangelist, highlights this quality of God's love in today's Gospel: "At the sight of the crowds, Jesus' heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd."

What should be our response to God's amazing love?  For a full response to that question, dive into the New Testament.  For now, I will highlight two things.  St. Paul, writing to the Romans, says: "We also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."  Try taking up the consistent practice of boasting in God, just like grandparents boast of their grandchildren.  Tell everyone you know of the good things God has done for you.  Second, Jesus tells us what he would like: "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."  God wants us to pass on the countless and bountiful gifts what we have received from him to our family members, acquaintances and even to strangers.

Lord Jesus, I than you from the bottom of my heart for my mother's love for me, and I beg for the grace to thank you forever in heaven for your infinite, tender and perfect love for me.