Since Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross stands as the greatest act of love in history, Dominican Brother Humbert Kilanowski feels the only suitable way of honoring that gesture is to constantly practice selfless love ourselves.
"Through Jesus’ act of total self-giving love, he taught us what love is," said Brother Kilanowski, who quoted 1 John 3:16: "The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Brother Kilanowski spoke March 5 at Elmira’s Our Lady of Lourdes Church. His lecture, which also included a potluck supper, was sponsored by the Elmira parishes’ youth-ministry program and the local Mary Queen of Apostles Chapter of the Third Order Dominicans.
During his talk Brother Kilanowski returned frequently to the subject of love. Regarding Lenten sacrifice, he observed that our fasting from pleasurable things "is how we make sure that we don’t love anything else more than we love God." Meanwhile, he described almsgiving as "the free act of giving of ourselves, our time, our possessions to our neighbors in need … how we love our neighbor as ourselves and spread the love that God has given us to all we meet."
Brother Kilanowski observed that the word "love" is used in many different ways, "none of which mean exactly the same thing: I love my mother; I love my dog; I love fishing; I love pizza; I love that song." However, he said charitable love tops the list by far, adding that "every one of the Ten Commandments shows us how to love God or to love our neighbor."
Brother Kilanowski emphasized that any other form of love is going to fall short of full satisfaction, such as love of eating cookies, watching movies and other pleasurable activities.
"The same holds for money, or possessions, or knowledge: When we have some, or acquire it, we just want more," he added. "Whatever desire we have for anything, we can never have completely fulfilled, because we always want more."
He said this pursuit of lesser loves is marked by our sinfulness — but "even when we sin, when we love something else more than God and fall away from him, God does not abandon us or leave us in our sin, because he loves us too much to do that and desires to bring us back to him."
This return to God’s love is marked by the sacrament of penance: "Sin does not have the last word; God, in his great merciful love, always offers us the chance to repair a broken relationship with him," Brother Kilanowski said, citing Proverbs 10:12: "Love covers all offenses."
He concluded his talk by imploring the audience to "love God with all our heart, all our strength, all our mind, all our soul, and love our neighbor as ourselves, so that each day on earth is a preparation and a foretaste of the eternal day in heaven."
Brother Kilanowski belongs to the Dominican Province of St. Joseph and resides at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington D.C. His appearance in Elmira was part of an initiative by the Dominicans — also known as the Order of Preachers — through which their brothers travel to speak at parishes during Lent and Advent.
According to Karen Kilpatrick, secretary of Elmira’s Third Order Dominican chapter, nearly 30 people attended the March 5 gathering.
"Both young and old that came were very pleased, and Ryan Salisbury, the youth minister, would like to try to do this again in the future," Kilpatrick said.