Sixth Sunday of Easter B
May 9, 2021
John 15: 9 - 17
By Rev. John Tran
If we ever think about ‘love’ and ‘God,’ we often think of how much we love God. But in this Easter Season, what we are celebrating is how much God loves us. It is important that we start from this, God’s love for us, because without understanding this, we cannot understand anything about Christian love at all. And that is because as St. John says in his first letter, “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him.”
Jesus speaks in the gospel today that love is extreme; love is all consuming; love is God. Jesus tells us that he loves us in the same way that the Father loves him. That is a total, “black hole” kind of love; a love that has no end no matter the circumstances. That love is so great that Jesus can explain it only this way: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And friends is what he call us: “You are my friends...I no longer call you slaves.
Jesus tell us that his commandment for us is this, “love one another as I have loved you.”
We think sure, I can do that. I could have died for that blessed group of disciples, I can die for my family and friends. The catch is that Jesus did not die only for so specialized a group. In fact, Jesus died for sinners; he died for people who ran away when he was in trouble, who betrayed him, who thought he was the downfall and misdirection of the whole people. Jesus died for the respectable people and the unrespectable alike - and he seemed to like the unrespectable people the most.
This brings us to the first reading from Acts of the Apostles. Reluctantly, Peter has come to the conclusion that “God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts rightly is acceptable to him.” This is a hard lesson for Peter who must learn it over and over again. There are no classes or ‘chosen’ people for God. And it is hard for us too. We are constantly trying to set up groups of the elect, trying to exclude those we don’t like or who are different from us. Jesus was willing to talk to anyone whether an Israelite, a woman from Samaria or Phoenicia, a leper or sick person, even a sinner or this tax collector here.
This is the kind of love that Jesus wants us to have for one another, and even for the criminal and stranger; in short, for those who are not lovable and who even turn us off. Why? Because for Jesus all are his friends, even those who do not seem to deserve it. And for all these, Jesus is willing to lay down his life in order to save.
G. K. Chesterton once said that the really great lesson of the story of “Beauty and the Beast” is that a thing must be loved before it is lovable. He notes that person must be loved before that person can be lovable. Some of the most unlovely people he had known got that way because they thought that nobody loved them. The fact of the matter is that unless, and until, we feel ourselves loved, we cannot love.
St. Paul tells us, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” The love that is asked of us the the same love as he had for disciple, nonbeliever, or one unclean according to the Law. It a love that is difficult and not always agreeable. It is a love that often goes against the grain. But then so was the love of Jesus who died for the very people who wanted him crucified; he died for us in our sins. Jesus made us lovable and he calls us to do the same for others. “I give you a new commandment: Love on another, as I have loved you.” And as an antiphon for Holy Thursday says, “Where charity and love are, there is God.”
Now, when we go about our day and week, we must decide how we are going to love in this way, even if we have to do it a little at a time. This week think of some very concrete things we can do to begin. Our very lives depend upon it.