In the name of love

Holy Saturday this year falls on April 4. This might bring to mind the line from the U2 song “Pride” (popularly known by its refrain line, “In the name of love”), in which the Irish group sings, “Early morning, April four/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride.” They are singing about the death of Martin Luther King on that date in 1968 (they actually got the time wrong in the song; he died around 6 p.m., so when they sing it in concerts they often correct it and say “early evening”).

The song also makes allusions to other people who fought, not with arms, but with their arms wide open to humanity in love.  Jesus is referred to in the line, “One Man betrayed with a kiss.”

Looking up U2’s song on the Internet, one can accidentally run into references to another song, this one by Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Stop in the Name of Love.” This January Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh wrote about how he was moved when hearing that song in a concert, how it made him reflect on the strife besetting our country and the world this year.

“It has been a brutal past few months,” Bishop Zubik wrote in January, although a lot of what he said is still quite timely, unfortunately. “Communities have been on edge. The divisions that persist among us have been exacerbated: divisions between police and the people they are supposed to protect; divisions between political leaders and those they are supposed to lead; and, yes, divisions between black and white. ‘STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE!’”

Last Friday night, according to the Boston Globe, “officers fatally shot Angelo West after he fired a .357 Magnum point blank at Officer John Moynihan during a traffic stop. Officer Moynihan, a six-year veteran recognized for bravery during the Marathon bombings, was reported in stable condition after undergoing surgery on Sunday.”

A few people tried to claim (sometimes quite rudely) that the situation in Boston was similar to that in Ferguson, Mo. and other places in this country, but most objective observers agree that the Boston police handled this terrible situation well. The Globe editorial board praised them: “Police Commissioner William Evans wisely involved community leaders, ministers, and elected officials almost immediately, showing them security video of the shooting and answering questions about details from start to finish — including the care police took to treat West’s body with respect as they processed the crime scene. It is equally heartening that uniformed Boston police officers and other first responders attended a Palm Sunday Mass at a Roxbury church near the site of the shooting, where prayers were offered for Moynihan’s recovery.”

At Mass we are reminded of a truth that Bishop Zubik wrote in that column: “All lives matter.” If they didn’t matter, Jesus would not have died and Rose for us. 

The bishop continued by mentioning January’s sad anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision: “That decision mandating the legalization of abortion is rooted in the same dangerous thought from which racism emerges — that all lives are not created equal; that there are lives less worthy than others; that some lives are inherently less deserving to live than others. The principles that underlie legalized abortion are no different than the principles that underlie racism. ‘STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE!’ As Catholics, if there is a banner we want to carry it would read that all lives matter. The sick, the aged, the unborn — they all matter without reference to their utility, their heritage or their skin color. ‘I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,’ the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. prayed.”

Bishop Zubik summarized what we are facing: “The evils we have to fight are racism, poverty, violence and the horrid concept that killing — as we just saw in Paris [in the killings at the magazine and the Kosher marker] — is a legitimate means to address our grievances and somehow solve our problems. ‘STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE!’”

Jesus did not fight evil with weapons, but with His submission to the evil of sinners (all of us), so as to free us from our own slavery and help us enter His kingdom of love. 

June 3, 1997 St. John Paul II, visiting the tomb of St. Adalbert in Poland, reminded his listeners, “In the name of respect for human rights, in the name of liberty, equality and fraternity, in the name of solidarity among mankind and in the name of love, I cry out: Do not be afraid! Open the doors to Christ! Without Christ it is impossible to understand man. For this reason, the wall which today is raised in people’s hearts, the wall which divides Europe, will not be torn down without a return to the Gospel. For without Christ it is impossible to build lasting unity. How can a ‘common house’ for all of Europe be built, if it is not built with the bricks of men’s consciences, baked in the fire of the Gospel, united by the bond of a fraternal social love, the fruit of the love of God?”

What he said about Europe is true for America and for anywhere. Unity is not a mere agreement in words, it requires us to be lovingly forged together through truly standing with each other in the challenges of life. Here we are not just saying something “in the name of love,” we are actually loving in deeds.

In his 1994 Letter to Families, St. John Paul again used that phrase. “Only the one who is able to be demanding with himself in the name of love can also demand love from others. Love is demanding. It makes demands in all human situations; it is even more demanding in the case of those who are open to the Gospel. Is this not what Christ proclaims in ‘His’ Commandment? Nowadays people need to rediscover this demanding love, for it is the truly firm foundation of the family, a foundation able to ‘endure all things.’ According to the Apostle [Paul], love is not able to ‘endure all things’ if it yields to ‘jealousies,’ or if it is ‘boastful, arrogant or rude’ (cf. 1 Cor 13:5-6). True love, St. Paul teaches, is different: ‘Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’ (1 Cor 13:7). This is the very love which ‘endures all things.’ At work within it is the power and strength of God Himself, Who ‘is love’ (1 Jn 4:8, 16). At work within it is also the power and strength of Christ, the Redeemer of man and Savior of the world.”

This April 4, as we recall the day Jesus was in His descent amongst the dead to bring them to Heaven (something unmerited, but given by Him out of love), may we pray about how we can turn our words of love into actions for a better world.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts