Trinity 1 – It’s all about love

T01 - Sir John Everett Millais - 1864

1 John4:7-end        St Luke 16:19-end


Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us. [l Jn 4:8-1O]

We are beginning Trinity season, the last half of the Church year. And it has been described as being about our sanctification, our growing into the people we can become in Christ, with the gift of His Spirit dwelling in our hearts through faith and baptism.

If we have been baptised and believe, we have been born again of water and of the Spirit, as Jesus promised in last Sunday's Gospel.

And the readings for this Sunday and next Sunday are introductory to the whole season of Trinity.

Today is a reminder that our ascension into the life of God, our sanctification, is all about our ascending into the life of love. So, as I noted in the newsletter last week, whatever spiritual disciplines we are undertaking as part of cooperating with the grace of God to grow in holiness, the ultimate test of whether we are getting closer is quite simple: are we becoming more loving? And love has content: it is expressed as being more present to those around us, of seeing what is a good thing to do and doing it, of truly loving our neighbour that is in front of us - that is the test that we are loving God.

St John says this in the reading today in several ways in language rich and poetic... John is explaining why in the two great commandments, the second - love your neighbour- is like the first - love God.

Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God...because God is love.

And that love has content:

The love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus died for our sins - that's love.

We ought to love like that - bearing with the sins of others and forgiving.

We know God is in us, by the Spirit, promised us in our Baptism and confirmed by our faith.

If we love, God is in us, because God is love.

We don't fear condemnation because we know God's love as mercy. We love following His love for us.

So we cannot love God and hate a brother.

Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

In the spiritual life we may think that we love God, but the test is this: how are we relating to God's creatures, our fellow man?

Because we can't see God or our own heart very well, but we can see more easily our outward actions towards others, St John encourages us to look at these relations to see how we are doing.

So this Sunday and in all the Sundays to come, we will be given examples that can reveal the ways we are still immature, and our need for grace to become more loving.


This morning Jesus gives us a stark example in the parable about a rich man and Lazarus.

A rich man who does not attend to his neighbour that is suffering at his gate, desiring a few crumbs from his table. Lazarus is lying there with dogs licking his sores, it seems that dogs understood mercy better than the rich man.

In the afterlife, we hear of the state of the two - one in torment and the other finally at rest with Abraham, the Father of those with faith.

The images are painful.

We are in the wealthy West - we want to ask how much should I give away? Can I have wealth? Can I have a house? Do I give to a beggar who will probably use the money for drink or drugs? Is the person asking really in need or deserving? What about the poor in this world, the needs of others seems endless...  It can be overwhelming, but we could start with those in our midst.

  • My mentor in rural Nova Scotia, Fr Crouse, never locked the door of his house even when he left.  When I asked him about it he said to me, "What would happen if someone needed something and I wasn't there?"

One thing we might object to helping is that the person might be not be deserving or might misuse our help:

  • It might bring to mind the example in Les Miserable a 19th century novel by Victor Hugo, made into a musical, set in early 19th century France. A man, Jean Valjean, jailed 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his family - and when released is shown mercy by a bishop, who takes him in. But Valjean had been hardened in his heart by his prison experience, and so then steals the bishop's silver. But when caught by the police and brought to the bishop, the bishop responds that it was a gift and gives him also two silver

He says to the police he was glad Valjean came back because he had forgotten these. The mercy shown him broke through the hardness of Valjean's heart and brings about his conversion. Here's a poor person, we could say, undeserving (or is he?), but who is changed by mercy.

I don't think the point of the parable is to suggest we should never discern the validity of requests for help.  The most loving thing might be to not give in to a request for money as it might hurt the person.  The parable does suggest we cannot judge the end state of a person by their personal circumstances in this life. Maybe it is helpful to think about that more when we are faced with our neighbour in need. C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory:

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."

But beyond our inability to judge the end state of others by their present circumstances, the parable is a warning about what we love, and how what we love can shape our eternal destiny:

In our attempt to attain comfort in this life, satisfying the senses, have we shut our hearts to the suffering of those around us?

What kind of gate we have set up in our hearts between ourselves and the needs of our neighbour around us?

The life we are leading - if it does not involve real suffering, the giving up of ourselves for others, we are not really following Jesus. We are not really becoming human beings in God's image and likeness. [Remember Jesus said of his corning passion- if they do this to me, they will do this to you... (St John 15:19-21)]

Our ascending into the life of God, is about ascending into the life of love, of self-giving, of mercy.  If we ask, God will break down the barriers we have set up in our hearts to the love of neighbour.

Finally, when it comes to desiring to enter into heaven, we all are beggars for grace, like Lazarus - but God, not like that rich man, has come from heaven, through the gate, to take our flesh upon himself and to die for us.

Let us prepare ourselves now to receive Him through repentance and faith and so become more like Him.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.


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Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalm 127:1,2