We have heard in the Gospel Jesus gives us a new commandment – commandment of love. I would like to share with you a beautiful story. In 1976 a car accident tore open the head of a 21-year old Chicago boy named Peter. His brain was damaged and he was thrown into a deep coma. Doctors told Peter’s family and friends that he probably wouldn’t survive. Even if he did, he’d always be in a comatose state. One of the people who heard that frightening news was Linda, the girl Peter planned to marry. In the sad days ahead, Linda spent all her spare time in the hospital. Night after night, she’d sit at Peter’s bedside, pat his cheek, rub his brow, and talk to him. “It was like we were on a normal date,” she said. All the while Peter remained in a coma, unresponsive to Linda’s loving presence. Night after night, for three and a half months, Linda sat at Peter’s bedside, speaking words of encouragement to him, even though he gave no sign that he heard her.
Then one night Linda saw Peter’s toes move. A few nights later she saw his eyelash flutter. This was all she needed. Against the advice of the doctors, she quit her job and became his constant companion. She spent hours massaging his arms and legs. Eventually she arranged to take him home. She spent all her savings on a swimming pool, hoping that the sun and the water would restore life to Peter’s motionless limbs. Then came the day when Peter spoke his first word since the accident. It was only a grunt, but Linda understood it. Gradually, with Linda’s help, those grunts turned into words – clear words. Finally the day came when Peter was able to ask Linda’s father if he could marry her. Linda’s father said, “When you can walk down the aisle, Peter, she’ll be yours.” Two years later Peter walked down the aisle of Our lady of Pompeii Church in Chicago. He had to use a walker, but he was walking. Every television station in Chicago covered that wedding. Newspapers across the country carried pictures of Linda and Peter. Celebrities phoned to congratulate them. People from as far away as Australia sent them letters and presents. Families with loved ones in comas called to ask their advice. Today, Peter is living a normal life. He talks slowly, but clearly. He walks slowly, but without a walker. He and Linda even have a lovely child.
The story of Linda and Peter is a beautiful commentary on the words of Jesus in today’s gospel: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If there’s one thing we need to do today, it’s to rediscover the power of love, the kind of love that Jesus preached. The story of Linda and Peter illustrates that this kind of love has tremendous power, a miraculous power. It has the power to bring people back from the brink of death to life. It has the power to bring people back from the hopeless sickness to perfect health. It has the power to inspire people the world over and give them new hope, as Linda’s love for Peter did.
The world is in the brink of danger; danger of not having fire, fire of love. This time the danger comes not from something basic like the lack of fire but from something even more basic – the lack of human love, the kind of love Jesus preached, the kind of love Linda had for Peter. Today’s gospel is an invitation for us to look into our hearts and to see how we ourselves are answering that question by our own lives of love – especially within our families. For we must begin to change the world there or we won’t change it at all.
Let’s close with these words by the famous priest-scientist Teilhard de Chardin: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall come to God for the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire, the fire of love.”
God Bless You,