My topic today will be extravagant love and I will look at three persons who demonstrated extravagant love.
The first person is Elsa Joseph. Elsa was born about 110 years ago in Germany. She was Jewish and she raised her two daughters to be strong in their faith. In the 1940s both of her daughters were killed by the Nazis; but Elsa herself was able to survive the concentration camps.
After the war Elsa returned to her career of giving violin concerts. Her tour schedule took her all over Europe and the Middle East. One night, she found herself giving a concert in Germany, the homeland of the people who had killed her daughters. Before picking up her violin, she went to the microphone and told her story, a story that cried out to heaven for vengeance. But she did not seek vengeance. Instead she spoke about her willingness to forgive.
She spoke about her desire to be reconciled with those who had killed her daughters. She said, “I pray for them every day.” She also said, “I don’t understand why I don’t hate them. I guess God has given me a forgiving heart.” Those were her exact words. “God has given me a forgiving heart.” Her daily prayers for those who killed her daughters demonstrated her extravagant love.
My second example is found in today’s First Reading. The prophet Jeremiah had a deep love for his people. He kept himself connected to them with a bond of love that could not be broken. They treated him badly, but he still loved them. He served them as their prophet for more than forty years. His ministry did not have any tangible rewards because year after year his message fell on deaf ears.
He called the people to reform; but they refused to do so. He warned them that God would punish them for their idolatry and their immoral behavior. But they laughed at him and told him to go away. They rejected him, but he refused to go away. When he spoke out in public, they threw him into prison. When he got out of prison he went back to preaching. They captured him and threw him into a cistern. He would have starved to death but the king pulled him out and placed him in a regular prison. Jeremiah hated to be in prison. He felt depressed but he never lost hope.
Why? Because his parents had taught him: “God is Emmanuel. God is with you at all times and God is lifting you up when you are in trouble.” Finally, in 587 B.C., he was set free when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem. God had extravagant love for Jeremiah and Jeremiah had extravagant love for his people.
Our third person with extravagant love is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said in the Gospel today, “I have come to bring fire to the earth.” What is this fire? It is the fire of extravagant love. That means loving people who are not popular. Jesus had dinner with the sinners and tax collectors. That made the Pharisees mad because they said that religious leaders become unclean when they do such a thing.
The fire of love means touching people who are unclean. Jesus touched the lepers. That made the Pharisees mad because they say that you become unclean when you touch a leper and a religious leader should never do that. Jesus touched the lepers because he loved them.
The fire of extravagant love means proclaiming the truth. Jesus said that it is better to serve than to be served. Even his disciples had trouble with that truth. They expected the common people to wait on them until Jesus washed their feet at the Last Supper and told them to go forth and serve others. The fire of love means placing the needs of others above your personal needs.
Another truth that Jesus proclaimed: God shows no partiality. God loves everyone. With that in mind, Jesus found a way to love everyone. Sinners and tax collectors and outcasts and Samaritans and Romans. And for the most loving action of all Jesus carried the cross for us. He carried the cross so that we could be set free from sin, set free from selfishness and set free to love others without seeking any reward.
And now for the bottom line: We are disciples of Christ, and we should lead lives of extravagant love. We need to show our love in different ways to different people. To some people we extend a compassionate love. To some we extend a challenging love. To some we extend a supportive love. To some we extend a tough love. To some we extend a word of encouragement. We show our love in different ways to different people…. But we love them all……..That’s what we mean by the fire of love.
Yes. The fire of love means extravagant love. Going all out to love others….. As did Jeremiah and Elsa Joseph and Jesus of Nazareth. We take a moment now to ask Jesus to fill our hearts with the fire of extravagant love.