Fifth Sunday of Easter – C

Readings: Acts 14:21-27; Ps 145:8-13; Rev 21:1-5; Jn 13:31-35

WHAT IS LOVE?

LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL COMMITMENT TO AN IMPERFECT PERSON. TO LOVE SOMEBODY ISN’T JUST A STRONG FEELING. IT IS A DECISION,
A JUDGEMENT AND A PROMISE OF A LIFETIME.

Here is a selection of 10 short love stories Makes Me Think (MMT) recently sent by Fr. Marcel, that not only made me think, but warmed my heart and cheered me up. I hope they do the same for you.

1. Today, my dad came home with roses for my mom and me. “What are these for I asked?” He said that several of his co-workers were complaining about their wives and children today. He realized how lucky he was that after 20 years of marriage, and raising a daughter for the last 17 years, he still had nothing to complain about. MMT

2. Today, when I asked my grandfather for some relationship advice, he said, “Honestly, the moment I stopped trying to find the right woman, and started trying to become the right man, your grandmother walked up to me and said, ‘Hello.’” MMT

3. Today, it’s been 10 years since I told my best friend Diego that I wouldn’t be able to attend the prom with him because my family was struggling to make ends meet and couldn’t afford to buy me a ticket or a dress. Diego ended up buying me a dress and a ticket, and helping my folks out with money by helping my dad, who had been unemployed for six months, find a good job. Ten years, a marriage, and one kid later, Diego still loves me. MMT.

4. Today, on our 50th wedding anniversary, my husband took out an old envelope and handed me back the love note I wrote him in the 7th grade. MMT

5. Today, it’s been over ten years since I was a bag boy at a local grocery store. On Sunday mornings I held the front door open for our customers and greeted them. One particular older woman loved me for it. She actually told me on several occasions that one day I would make a lovely husband. This afternoon, I walked into that grocery store holding my wife’s hand and the same old woman was on her way out. She held the door for us, winked and said, “I told you so.” MMT

6. Today, my wife and I sat down and watched the same movie at the same time. Despite being 9,000+ miles apart overseas on active duty, I felt like she was sitting right by me and I suddenly didn’t feel so alone. MMT

7. Today, it’s been five years since I adopted a puppy from a high kill shelter that had no time left. Since then I have developed a moderate case of a neurological disease that causes seizures. Believe it or not, the dog is able to detect my seizures before I know. She starts barking hysterically, and keys me into my episode before it starts. So today she is my service dog. The life I saved is saving me every day. MMT

8. Today, it’s been 28 years since a firefighter saved my life when he rescued me from a burning building. In the process he suffered a leg injury that doctors said would leave him unable to walk normally for life. This evening, he put down his cane and slowly walked our daughter down the aisle. My husband of 27 years! MMT

9. Today, I finally stopped being foolish and called an old best friend I hadn’t talked to in over a year. He singlehandedly got me through one of the toughest times of my life, and in my depression I lashed out at him and dropped him from my life for selfish reasons. He answered the phone with: “Ready to pick up where we left off?” It instantly made me smile. Jason, you MMT.

10. Today was my little sister’s 14th birthday. She has Down Syndrome and doesn’t have many friends. My boyfriend picked me up for dinner with flowers, but said they weren’t for me. He came inside and handed them to my sister. She was so excited. He then took us both out to dinner to celebrate. MMT

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas after their first missionary journey, give an account to the Church in Antioch of all that God had done with them, and how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Through their pastoral visits, Paul and Barnabas had put fresh life into the hearts of the newly baptized. But Paul is quick to remind members of the local Christian communities that they would have to suffer before entering the Kingdom of God.

The Second Reading: In times of suffering and even persecution, belief in the Risen Lord inspires the faithful with extraordinary courage to hope for God’s gift of peace and joy, when every tear will be wiped away.

In today’s Gospel, the farewell discourse of Jesus brings newness and a challenge. “I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you should love one another”.

That sounds simple and straight forward until we begin to realize what Jesus is really asking us to do. In this passage, Jesus challenges us to live the new commandment, which implies the demand to follow his example – “as I have loved you”. That is the mark of a true, genuine disciple. Being Christian is not about knowing the faith or knowing what the catechism says. It is first and foremost about relationship with Jesus and with one another. Jesus expects us in this parish to love each other. He did not ask his disciples to “like” each other! That would be very easy. Loving each other is much more demanding. It is the test by which you and I will be judged by the world around us. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Such a love makes us more credible, more effective instruments of God’s transforming action that brings about a new heaven and a new earth that John speaks about in the Book of Revelation. If we are credible witnesses, others will want to become Christian. Mahatma Gandhi was once asked why he did not want to become Christian. He said: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Our love for one another makes us more credible, more effective instruments of God’s transforming action. 2) If we truly love one another, then we will be able to convince others to join us, and God will then make his dwelling among us. 3) Love for one another is the key to bringing about a new heaven and a new earth prophesied in the Second Reading; it is the key to wiping away all tears from those who suffer, and removing pain and death from our midst.

Jesus knew that relationships are the most valuable asset that we have, but at times the most difficult to maintain. That’s why in John 13:34 Jesus taught, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Then He added, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (verse 35).

The “one another” in these verses is a reference to fellow believers. A distinguishing mark of being a follower of Christ is a deep, sincere love for brothers and sisters in Christ. The apostle John reminds us of this fact elsewhere: “He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:21).

In giving this command, Jesus did something the world had never seen before—He created a group identified by one thing: love. There are many groups in the world, and they identify themselves in any number of ways: by skin color, by uniform, by shared interest, by alma mater, etc. One group has tattoos and piercings; another group abstains from meat; yet another group wears fezzes—the ways people categorize themselves are endless. But the church is unique. For the first and only time in history, Jesus created a group whose identifying factor is love. Skin color doesn’t matter. Native language doesn’t matter. There are no rules about diet or uniforms or wearing funny hats. Followers of Christ are identified by their love for each other.

The early church demonstrated the type of love Jesus was talking about. There were people in Jerusalem from all over the known world (Acts 2:9–11). Those who were saved got together and immediately began meeting each other’s needs: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:44–45). This was love in action, and you can be sure it made an impression on the people of that city.

Jesus’ statements in John 13:34–35 raise a couple of other questions that may be good to answer. First, how does Jesus love? He loves unconditionally (Romans 5:8), sacrificially (2 Corinthians 5:21), with forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32), and eternally (Romans 8:38–39). At the same time, Jesus’ love is holy—characterized by transcendent moral purity—because he is holy (Hebrews 7:26). The culmination of Christ’s amazing love for us is his death on the cross, burial, and bodily resurrection (1 John 4:9–10). Believers are to love each other like that.

Second, “How then can the believer in Christ love as Christ loved?” The believer in Christ has the Holy Spirit living within him (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). By obeying the Spirit, through the Word of God, the believer can love like Christ does. He shows that unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving love to fellow believers, but it doesn’t stop there. He also shows the love of Christ to friends, to family members, to co-workers, etc. (Ephesians 5:18–6:4;Galatians 5:16, 22–23). Even enemies are the recipients of Christ’s love (see Matthew 5:43–48).

Christ’s love displayed through the believer is unlike the “love” generated by the flesh, which can be selfish, egotistical, unforgiving, and insincere. First Corinthians 13:4–8 gives a wonderful description of what Christ’s love will be like in and through the believer who walks in the Spirit.

People don’t naturally love with a 1 Corinthians 13-type love. To love like that, there must be a change of heart. A person must realize that he is a sinner before God and understand that Christ died on the cross and rose again to provide him forgiveness; then he must make the decision to accept Christ as his personal Savior. At that point he is forgiven by Christ and receives God’s gift of eternal life—in fact, he becomes a participant in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). In Christ he knows that he is genuinely loved by God. The new life the believer receives includes a new capacity to love like Christ loves, for the believer now has living within him the unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving, eternal, and holy love of God (Romans 5:5).

To love one another is to love fellow believers as Christ loves us. Those who love like Christ in the Holy Spirit’s power will give evidence that they are disciples, or learners, of Jesus Christ.

ONE LOVE! ONE HEART!
LET’S GET TOGETHER AND FEEL ALL RIGHT!

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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