My sweet little Mary’s growing up. Today’s Torah selection is all about love. Holy love. How appropriate that it’s the day of your Bat Mitzfah!
It’s easy to love the lovable. Cool people, no problem. Friendly, kind people: ditto. People who love us back. Puppies. But it’s not so easy to love the ones who are broken. The ones who are needy. The ones who don’t do what we want or what we think they should do. We talk about love like it’s all googoo-gaga and happiness. It can be. I thank God every day for Moma Cate. But sometimes love is ugly. Unpleasant. Impossible. Cringey. Sometimes it’s downright terrifying.
Love rarely fits into a nice neat box of chocolates. As much as you love chocolate, Mary, that’s not where the real goodies are.
Unrelenting love is the greatest blessing, Mary. Love that nourishes us and gives us meaning.
And guess what, Mary: you’ve always known the ways of love. In fact you’re constantly teaching me about love – Did you know that?
Long before someone told you that you should give to the poor, you’ve always been the first to suggest we do so.
Mary, You are the rare soul who doesn’t love in order to get or gain; you simply love. You know on the deepest level, that love is its own reward. That love conquers fear. Love leads us out of our own darkness. You may not always know how to balance an equation, but you know that. Mary, you have a light in you. Everyone who knows you, sees it. It’s a gift from God that you were born with and that you have nurtured your whole life.
You’re chosen. Sure you have wonderful talents, your singing your violin, your acting. And no one works harder to overcome their limitations than you. All your hard work at school and in preparing for this day is a beautiful manifestation of your love. I’m so very proud of you.
But you’re greatest gift is as a healer and a minister of love. Your beautiful prayers for your step brother Austen and your cousin Olivia, you’re hyper awareness of others’ suffering, your deeply felt concern for people on the other side of the world. Your love is powerful and palpable. I remember you playing your violin on Second Sundays, the money burning a hole in your pocket, so you could give your earnings to other performers or any homeless person you encountered along your way.
But something I’ll never forget is when you were six, without any prompting, you asked me to lift you up and lay you face to face with your cousin Dominic, who was completely paralyzed from a heroin overdose, languishing for years in a nursing home, unable to utter a word, broken, hideous. You looked him straight in his eyes and said, “I love you Dominic.”
You taught me love doesn’t stop, even when we are rejected by someone we thought was our friend. Separated by time and space. Sometimes we have to be quiet. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes it takes years, decades. And sometimes all it takes is a little prayer. Or a good night’s sleep. Sometimes you have to look hard to find what’s lovable in the seemingly unlovable. Mary, in a million ways, big and small, you get that. You speak light into a dark, loveless world every day. Mary, you have changed my life forever with your love.
It is my father’s prayer that everyone in this room, starting with me, reflect upon the love you demonstrate everyday, as a compassionate, strong and wise child of God. May you be a force of change in the world. May we all remember, love is a choice; it’s only as good as we make it. May God continue to bless you with abundant, holy love. And may God’s love shine upon you all the days of your beautiful, sweet life.