Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Friday of the Third Week of Advent
Isaiah 56:1-3,6-8  +  John 5:33-36

Come, Lord, bring us your peace / that we may rejoice before you with a perfect heart.

The verse for today’s Gospel Acclamation asks the Lord to come and bring us His peace.  Peace, of course, is a basic theme of our wishes and prayers during this time of year.  But the Gospel Acclamation continues in a way that specifies why we want the Lord to bring us His peace:  “that we may rejoice before you with a perfect heart.”  This petition is not a basic theme of this time of year, but perhaps it ought to be.

By contrast, we might ask what keeps our hearts from being perfect to begin with?  God gives a human person a heart so that she or he might love.  A “perfect heart”, then, is a heart that loves as God loves.  To be more specific, a “perfect heart” is a heart that loves God and loves one’s neighbor in the manner in which God loves.  These two forms of love—loving God and loving one’s neighbor—are challenging for contrasting reasons.

It’s a challenge to love God because God is love, and His love for us in infinite.  The immensity of God’s love challenges us, and tempts us to despair of loving as God loves.  While finite human persons cannot love with the infinite love that God loves, we can love Him perfectly:  with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

By contrast, it’s often a challenge to love our neighbor because our neighbor can be lacking in love.  The smallness of our neighbor’s love challenges us, and tempts us not to bother with him.  Why should we love our neighbor in a loving way when he has been unloving to us?

In both cases, it’s important to recognize that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us so that we could love with a perfect heart.  Jesus, in His preaching, miracles, and self-sacrifice on Calvary, reveals what God’s love looks like.  Through prayer and the sacraments, God pours His love into our hearts so that we can imitate Jesus’ loving ways more perfectly.