5th Sunday of Easter
A Homily - Cycle C - 2006-2007
First Reading - Acts 14:21-27
Responsorial Psalm - 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
Second Reading - Revelation 21:1-5a
Gospel - John 13:31-33a, 34-35
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. 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."
The psalmist says to us, "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works."
In a few sentences, the psalmist has clearly defined the essence of God, which is LOVE. Love is a wonderful word. It is what we live for. However, it is the often misused word when people mean something else. We might have heard someone say, "I love my phone or I love your car," so often that it may become a cliché. Well, what he/she really wants to say is this: "I like my phone or I like your car." For one thing: What makes the word "Love" different from all the rest is that it requires a response that includes graciousness, mercifulness, gentleness and kindness. Love is not enclosed in itself, for it is an interaction between the one who loves and the one who is loved. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so, as Jesus has commanded us in St. John's Gospel, we "also should love one another."
Brian Keenan spent four years as a hostage in Lebanon. Later he wrote: "It is only when we reach out beyond ourselves to embrace, to understand, and to finally overcome the suffering of another that we become whole in ourselves. We are enlarged and enriched as another's suffering reveals us to ourselves, and we reach out to touch and embrace (New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgy, Year C, p. 133). There is a lot of truth in Mr. Keenan's thought and we can embrace suffering only with a heart full of love, for "a person who truly loves," as emphasized by an archbishop who was imprisoned for thirteen years, "sacrifices all the time and never speaks about it," (The Road of Hope, #155, p.35).
All of Jesus' life is about love. Everything that He has ever lived for is about love. Everything that He has said and done is to testify to the simple truth that God exists and that He is love. St. John has beautifully pointed out in both the Second Reading and the Gospel that Jesus Christ is from God and shows us how much God has loved the world by allowing the Incarnation to happen in our world: "Behold," writes John, "God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God," It is eloquently said of the totally self-giving act of love by which God has chosen for Himself a life among us. He has accepted to take upon himself everything that is ours so that we may have an opportunity to share everything that is his. In St. Augustine's sermon we find him emphasize that "God was made man, that man might be made god." Jesus has taken on our human nature in its entirety except sin, experiencing even pains and sufferings, in order to redeem it and give it a new life that belongs to the Divine. We are made children of God. This gift of given life is given when one is baptized.
It makes sense, therefore, that we are called to a life of love when Jesus asks us to "love one another." As the people who are baptized by water and spirit, we are given the privilege to live as children of the Light shining in darkness. We become the disciples of love, following the example of Paul and Barnabas in the First Reading, to witness God's gift of love and mercy in the world. Nothing can separate us from the love of God and it is our Christian duty to share it with every man. Do we have the same conviction that Paul and the other disciples had when they went on their missions to report "What God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles?" Remember, it was their preaching that we, the Gentiles, have received the gift of faith and come to know the love of God through Jesus Christ. Now it is our responsibility to witness God's love in the world so that other people may recognize the presence of God in their lives. This responsibility originates from the mission of Christ itself, since it is Christ who says, "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Jesus knows how fulfilling the life of love is, for it is when we live with our truest self as created by the loving God. Our human dignity magnifies when we feel loved by God and we want to love others in return. All is because of God. He enables us to love in the way that may have transformed our selfish desires into our sincere wish to live for others following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. For when we raise our eyes upon the Cross, we see nothing else but LOVE. His self-giving act on the Cross is the culmination of the Incarnation, which gives life to the world and has taught us a good examples of love. It becomes the only reason for our love towards the unlovable.
"An American journalist, watching Mother Teresa as she cared for a man with gangrene, remarked, 'I wouldn't do that for a million dollars.' Mother Teresa replied: 'Even I wouldn't do it for that amount. However, I do it out of love for God.'" (Ibid).
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