Sunday Sermon for May 13, 2012, 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 Gospel reading today our Lord gives us a new commandment: to love one another as He loves us. How does He love us? This is the most important question because if we are to love Him as He loves us, we should certainly know how He loves us so that we can do the same. He tells us that He loves us as His Father loves Him.
On the surface this may not seem to help at all, but He qualifies the point when He tells us that we will remain in His love if we keep His commandments just as He remains in the Father’s love because He keeps the Father’s commandments. This brings us right back to the original problem because His commandment to us is to love.
The answer becomes more clear if we look at the second reading where St. John tells us that the way God revealed His love was that He sent His only Son that we might have life through Him. St. John makes it even more explicit when he says “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.” When we consider that Jesus equates love with keeping the commandments of His Father, we find St. Paul making the same point as St. John when he tells the Philippians that Jesus was obedient even to death, death on a cross.
In the Gospel our Lord says the same thing when He says that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. By now, most of us ought to be breaking a sweat because we realize that we often have difficulty mustering even the slightest amount of charity toward some people. We have trouble being kind, smiling and saying “hello,” or going out of ourselves to help someone in need. If this is hard for us, how much more difficult is it to love those people as Jesus loves us?
Our Lord tells us that He calls us His friends. This is truly astounding. It is one thing to see ourselves as very small creatures of an all powerful Creator. It is something far more to see ourselves as children of God Who is our Father. But to think that the Son of God would come into this world and consider us His friends?!! Think about how we have treated Him; we certainly do not deserve to be called His friends, but He is the One Who said it and He cannot lie or deceive.
He considers us to be His friends. That puts us on something of an equal par. It certainly does not imply that we become God, per se, as St. Peter makes clear in the first reading when he tells the bowing Cornelius to get up because Peter himself is only a man. But this is the same St. Peter who would later write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we have become partakers of the divine nature. So Jesus took our nature to Himself and gives us a share in His nature.
Prior to this point of calling us His friends, the Lord makes clear that we were like slaves and God was the Master. We had to be obedient to a set of external rules. Now that He has lifted us up in Himself we, like Him, still have to be obedient, but it is now a free choice and it comes from the inside. This obedience is to love. A slave is not given a choice but lives a slavery of constraint; Jesus taught us a slavery of love where we freely choose to be obedient, even to the point of death.
Our Lord has called us His friends; do we call Him our Friend? This is a scary notion because we know that to be a friend of Jesus means that we will become like Him. But isn’t that the whole idea of being Christian? We live in such a selfish society that we have forgotten that we were made for love: to love, to be loved, and to be transformed into love. This is because God is love and we are made in His image and likeness. We also share His nature and we are members of His Own Son.
This is, then, the purpose of our creation and it is the only thing that will fulfill us. Jesus tells us that He was sent into the world and, in turn, He sends us into the world continue in the world His saving work. When we love others as Jesus loved us, we point beyond ourselves to the Source of love and so bring people to the only Source of salvation.
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.