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Fifth Sunday of Easter: May 15, 2022

Jn 13: 31-33a, 34-35

Fr. John Tran

New things are a common theme in all the readings. In the first reading from Acts of the Apostles we see the church growing slowly through the efforts of dedicated disciples of Jesus who are taking his message of salvation all over their world to both Jews and gentiles. People are hearing the startling message of Jesus for the first time. Even though the disciples sometimes suffer, the telling of the message continues.

In the second reading from Revelation, we hear the result of Jesus life on earth, his resurrection from the dead, and what this means to people on earth for all ages to come: that “Behold [God] “has made all things new.” How are all things new? They are new because from now on God is living among us and will always be there for us even though we cannot sometimes see it. The old order of the world is passing away: there is no more death because death has lost it’s sting; it has become a passage way to eternal life with God. And in that passage, we no longer experience pain, suffering or a sense of loss because all things are new and we are taken into the very life of God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine.

The gospel reading from John takes place at the Last Supper after the meal and washing of the disciples’ feet. Judas has already left them and Jesus’ passion has begun. And this is the beginning of making “all things new.” It is the beginning of the slow spread of the good news we hear of the the first reading; it is the beginning of God living among us and all things becoming new in the second reading. And what is it that is so new? What is new is the way Jesus is asking us to love. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” And why is this important? “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This new commandment is what makes all things new; this, this is it: to love one another as I have loved you. Jesus is saying it is not only that I will suffer and die on the cross; it is not just that I will rise from the dead and conquer death making it a passage to the Father. These are the results; the point now is that as long as the world exists, people will recognize you are my followers because of the way you love one another; and if you love one another as I have loved you, then your love will spill out to others: that is the power of what I have done.

Now these are the characteristics of Jesus’ love: 1) Jesus loved his disciples selflessly. It is hard for us to really understand this point. When we love, it is difficult for us to be really unselfish; deep down, we wonder what we will get from this love, even if it is just happiness. But Jesus loves us without any thought of himself. 2) Jesus loved his disciples sacrificially. This means that there was no limit to what his love would give or where his love would go, even if this would mean the cross. We sometimes think that love is only to give happiness; it is in the end, but along the way love can bring pain and may demand a cross.

3) Jesus loved his disciples with understanding. Jesus knew them through and through; he knew their weaknesses like Peter’s denial or Judas' betrayal or the disciples’ fleeing in his time of need. Yet he still loved them with a love with real open-eyed love which loves a person not as we imagine them, but as they are. Jesus love the whole person, to put it in today’s words. And finally, 4) Jesus loved them forgivingly. Jesus knew that they never really understood him or what he meant to do. For all their failures, he loved them without reservation. There is no failure that he could not forgive, and this is the kind of love that will last.

This, my friends, is the kind of love which Jesus has for us as well, here and now, today. It is also the kind of love which Jesus asks from us; not so much for him, but for one another. How do you think the word of God spread so fast when the message was new? It was because the first believers took this kind of love to heart; because of this, they were recognized for who they were: the disciples of Jesus. This example gave the the people who experienced the first Christians reason to take Jesus seriously. Can we do any less?

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