Sixth Sunday of Easter Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48; 1John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17 “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (Jn15:12)
On Valentines’ Day 2018, over 144 million Valentines’ Day cards were purchased and mailed throughout the Unites States and billions of dollars were spent on purchasing other expressions of love such as flowers, candy and jewelry. While we may complain about this extravagance, we have to admit that there is something very satisfying about receiving a bright red envelope with a sentimental card or a small gift that tells us someone cared enough about us to send a gesture of love on Valentines’ Day.
What is true love? The theme that underlies today’s three scripture readings is that of love. From our own lived experience we know that true love is expressed in action and not just words. Genuine love is a selfless gift that knows no boundaries. Jesus begins his Gospel discourse by saying “As the Father loves me, so also I love you” (Jn15:9). The second reading from the letter of John gives clarity to this statement for he tells us that love is of God and God so loved us that He sent His only Son into the world who suffered and died for us. The love described in the second reading from the letter of John is not primarily our love of God, but God’s love for us revealed in the offering of the Son in reparation for our sins. In today’s gospel discourse which actually took place a shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus declared the depth of true love, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend” (Jn15:13). A short time later Jesus underwent an agonizing, shameful death on the cross. Jesus acceptance of this suffering and crucifixion for us is the greatest witness of love the world has ever known.
Today’s gospel account also invites us to look at our relationship with Jesus in a new way, namely as a friend rather than master. In many of the parables that Jesus used in teaching his disciples he used the image of a master-servant relationship in which the master was seen as someone with power who was to be feared, respected and obeyed. In today’s scripture, Jesus describes his relationship with his followers as that of friend-friend: “I no longer call you servants, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John15:15). Today’s gospel challenges us to rethink our relationship with Jesus and what it means to be called Jesus’ friend. As we struggle in our faith journey, often we think of ourselves as unworthy of being called Jesus’ friends. However, Jesus reminds us that “It was not you who chose me but I who chose you” (John 15:16).
What does Jesus ask of us in return for his friendship and unconditional and inclusive love? In today’s gospel Jesus actually give us the benchmark by which we are to judge how we are doing. Jesus says, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). This is an incredible challenge as we reflect on the fact that Jesus showed his love by feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, accepting the outcast, forgiving his enemies, confronting hypocrisy and injustice, and always preaching a message of love and hope. This inclusivity of God’s love is depicted in the first reading from Acts where Peter in baptizing Cornelius, the first gentile convert, finally comes to accept the concept of the universality of the new Christian church. What emerged was an inclusive transformed community. In today’s world, fraught by all types of violence and division, our scripture readings challenge us to go forth and proclaim God’s message of love and hope not only for our friends and colleagues but for all humankind.
Sister Mary T. Flood, O.P.