Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter responded, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:7-10
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”
One of the joys of the first reading today is that it shows that God works in His own way to draw people into the Church. The normal way is Baptism and then the Holy Spirit. In the case of Cornelius and his household, it was the Holy Spirit first and then baptism. We followers of Jesus can sometimes find ourselves upset because God does not follow our rules. Instead, we are invited to be like Saint Peter and watch for the presence of God.
The second reading today, from the First Letter of Saint John, spells out clearly that we must love others—not by our own power and strength, but because we know that we are first loved by God. This lesson is also enormously important in the Church. We are invited each day to renew our knowledge that God loves us. Our love can only be a response to His love. When we begin to think that we are loving with our own power, then we fall into the trap of rules and regulations.
Does that mean that there are no rules and regulations in the Church as founded by Jesus? Not at all! Instead the rules and regulations are there to help us maintain order and to be clear that following Christ is not about feelings and sentiments, but about doing the right thing and doing good always. This is not always an easy path for the followers of Jesus. We seem to go to extremes: either rules and regulations or complete freedom to do what we want. Instead, Jesus calls us to follow Him and His Church and that always implies obedience to the Word and to the Church. That obedience is always in freedom.
The Gospel from Saint John also reminds us that the test of true love, for the followers of Jesus, is the willingness to give my life away for the sake of the other person. This is what Jesus has gone for us: Jesus died so that we might live. Jesus rose so that we might have eternal life.
We are more than halfway through the Easter Season and we continue to rejoice that Jesus died and rose from the dead. We rejoice that Jesus gives us life. The test of the truth of our rejoicing is always the same: am I willing to die so that others might live? Do I practice giving up my life each and every day in the small events that happen in my life? Do I accept the trials and tribulations of ordinary daily life as signs of the Kingdom of God?
Jesus, help us follow you and give up our lives so that others may live.