Sunday Sermon for May 10, 2015, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17
In the second reading today St. John calls us to love one another because love is of God. This last part of the sentence is very important, especially in light of what follows: whoever loves is begotten by God and knows God and whoever is without love does not know God, because God is love. It would be easy to say “I love my children, therefore, I must be of God.” While it is true that the love we have for one another, including our children, comes from God, the fact that we have such love does not automatically mean that we are of God. After all, even pagans and atheists love their children.
The greater question we have to consider has to do with our love for others beyond our immediate circle. Recall that our Lord told us that we have to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. Obviously, loving our enemies does not imply having warm, fuzzy feeling about them. We may not like these people very well, but we are still called to love them. This means to be willing to serve them if we see that they are in need. This requires a real dying to self; I think it is also obvious that it is not something that comes naturally to us. In other words, it requires God’s grace.
Jesus told us in the Gospel reading that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He did this in the ultimate manner, but to die to self in order to seek the good of others, even of one’s enemies, certainly requires a huge amount of love. But this is what those who profess belief in Jesus are supposed to do. This is not something which is optional; it is part and parcel of what it means to be a Christian person. With this in mind, we can circle back to where we began and ask if we are truly loving and if we can be said to be of God.
The matter of Jesus speaking about laying down His life for His friends is of great importance to us today. He says that He no longer calls us slaves, but friends. While this has always been important to us as Christian people, it is of even greater importance given the prevailing political winds. Muslims believe that they are slaves of God. Jesus tells us that we are no longer slaves. He says elsewhere that if the Son sets you free, that you are truly free. That is exactly what has happened.
However, it does not stop there because in baptism we have been made children of God. No longer slaves, no longer just friends, we are now the children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus. When we look across the spectrum of those who are baptized, we can understand in a deeper way the meaning of St. Peter’s words from the first reading that God shows no partiality. Perhaps we could make the case that He demonstrates quite a sense of humor, but no partiality.
This brings us back to the question with which we began regarding our love for others. When we look into the depths of our hearts and realize that God chose us and that He loves us, how could we fail to extend a similar charity toward others? If God loves me and if He also loves the person next to me, why do I not love that person?
Of course, we have a hundred and one rationalizations for why we do not love someone, but if God loves that person, should we not love what God loves? God knows us well; He knows that we have all of our rationalizations, therefore, as we see in the Gospel, the Lord commanded us to love one another as He loves us. No more rationalizations! We have to love as God has loved us.
Our Lord tells us that these instructions about love are so that our joy may be complete. Our lack of joy, which is pervasive in our culture, is due to a lack of love. Not a lack of being loved, but a lack of loving. In other words, we are doing rather poorly in living as children of the Lord, begotten by God and knowing God. Only those who love can be defined in these ways and the immediate proof of our love will be found in the joy which fills us. Consider those around you, not just family and friends, but neighbors, fellow employees, those you do not like, etc., and begin praying for them. This will begin to change the heart from selfishness to love. Only when we love as we have been loved will we truly know God.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.