5th Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2022
L-O-V-E…what is it? What is the best witness of faith you have seen? The moving story of repentance against all odds. Or a simple act of love. What has more power, word or deed?
The entire story of creation is motivated by a LOVE that we can only fathom. Divine LOVE, God’s LOVE will stop at nothing to reveal itself. It has no bounds, no limits. To prove this point, God came in human form, in the person of Jesus. Jesus experienced all our human needs and weaknesses. Yet, Jesus offered everything He had, every moment of everyday to help those in need. Never questioning, judging, or denying the needs of His beloved children. He continued this self-giving, self-sacrificing love to the end. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only beloved Son, that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
We hear a very short yet powerful Gospel this week. John divided this short monologue of Jesus’ into three parts: the glory of the Son and the Father [31-32], the presence of God among the disciples , and the command to love one another [34-35]. It is the Last Supper and Judas has just left. Now the time had come for the glory of the Father to be revealed in the Son (in the crucifixion). The word “glorify” is not a prideful superiority. The meaning of glory, as it’s used in the Old Testament, means the manifestation of the inner truth. Jesus is saying that God is going to reveal Himself through His Son. The God who has been misunderstood for centuries is going to be revealed.
How is God revealed? How is He glorified? He is nailed to a cross, mocked, defiled, seen as a total failure, deserted by everyone He loves. His response? Jesus looks down, with open arms and says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” This is God’s glory, an unfathomable, merciful L-O-V-E. A LOVE the world has never known. Total self-giving, pure LOVE. Love was the means that raised the status of crucifixion from the profane to the sacred.
When Jesus gave Himself on the cross, the Father revealed Himself as a selfless God. His focus was upon us. The Father loved us through the Son's death. The Father's glory was in the Son and the Son's glory was in the Father.
Love has been the great motivator of Christianity from the beginning. Love of God, love of Christ, love of the Gospel and love for humanity. As we hear in the first reading, this love motivated St. Paul and the earliest disciples to persevere in the faith even when they had to undergo many trials. Love also motivated them to let go of their century’s old prejudices and warmly welcome gentiles into the community of the faith.
The second reading from Revelation, shares a vision of nuptial love. When all the former things have passed away and sin and evil are completely overcome, God will welcome the redeemed as a husband welcomes a bride. The love and life that they will share will bar tears, pain, crying out, mourning and death. This vision inspired John’s readers to persevere through their struggles and assured them of the constant and sustaining love of their divine bridegroom.
During His last hours with His own, Jesus reminded His followers of the legacy He would bequeath to them. A living legacy of love that would challenge them to love one another as He had loved them. This is how Jesus’ disciples would be recognized by others. This selfless love would lead others to Christ.
Being a disciple would require more than just believing. You can believe Jesus is Divine, you can believe He is the Son of God, but that belief will not inspire others to follow Him. Jesus says, the way people will know you are truly my students is if you love like the Master loved, if you imitate the Teacher. This is how the teacher/student relationship was in 1st Century Judaism. When you studied under a rabbi, it was assumed you would walk with him in the way that he walked. You would follow the path that he led, which is much harder to do than simply learning about the Torah and the law.
Theme in our Life Today
This directive of Jesus’ given to His disciples, and to us, was not as a suggestion or an option, something to do when we feel up to it. It is mandate and a challenge to put into our faith and love of Jesus into practice day in and day out until our final breath. Of course, to LOVE like God, is easier said than done.
To LOVE like God is not just an act of the intellect (how we know), it is an act of the will. We know love with our intellect, but we choose to love with our will. We know with the mind, but we love with the heart (the will), the deepest part of our being, where we choose for or against God.
The call to each of us is to imitate Christ day by day, moment by moment with small and large acts of love. It is not always easy to know what to do and to have the courage and strength to do it. But we are promised the abiding presence of God’s Holy Spirit, alive and active in the Church, in her Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and in our lives. God is with us. We simply need to surrender our will to His, and LOVE abounds.
St. Therese of Calcutta (Mother Therese) quoted today’s Gospel, “Jesus said, ‘Love one another. Such as My love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.’” She continued, “We must grow in love and to do this we must go on loving and loving and giving and giving until it hurts - the way Jesus did. Do ordinary things with extraordinary love: little things, like caring for the sick and the homeless, the lonely and the unwanted, washing and cleaning for them.” She also remarked that the greatest disease in the West today is not tuberculosis, leprosy or even A.I.D.S.; it is being unwanted, uncared for, unloved. With her every breathe, Mother Therese worked tirelessly to “cure” this disease. The good news, we can do the same. It is our choice.
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following:
Is my love for Christ, the Gospel and the Church discernible in the way I live my life?
Is it an identifying characteristic?
Is the love relationship I share with God deep and true enough to sustain me in times of struggle, trial and tears? If love is lacking, then today is the time to turn again to the One who first loved you, the One who can “make all things new!”