Readings: Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5; John13:31-35
An essential part of being a follower of Jesus Christ is a willingness to love. How many times have we heard with our ears and our hearts the words in today’s Gospel passage, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.”
These are, of course, words of our Lord, given not as a suggestion or an option, as something to embrace if we feel up to it, but as a real mandate, a challenge to put into practice day in and day out until our final breath. Easier said than done, we probably will readily agree.
It is good to remember that the teaching of Christ is not a philosophy or a theory, but a way of life, a way of love, manifested in words and deeds. “Love one another, as I have loved you,” is the basic teaching of Christ, and that is our work, challenging as it may be and even a cause of suffering and death.
The words and deeds of Christ teach a path other than violence, hatred and revenge, and we are called to inculcate the example of our Master in our daily lives. We may ask: how did Christ love? First of all, without counting the cost, even as it led to suffering and death on the cross.
Christ lived and died for others and never ignored the cries of the poor and the needy. Christ cured the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, and pardoned sinners. In other words, Christ willingly shared in the sufferings and joys of the people around him. Christ’s guiding principle was, “Do not judge and you shall not be judged; do not condemn and you shall not be condemned.”
Christ could understand and hope in others, even when there might be cause for discouragement or despair. Through self-giving love Christ shared our human condition completely even to the extreme of suffering and dying for those he loved.
The love of Christ was and is a constant and generous donation of self. Before giving his life on the cross, Jesus gave his Body and Blood at the Last Supper as a perpetual gift to those able to believe in him and embrace his teaching and example of “no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends,” realized perfectly in his existence.
The call to each of us is to imitate Christ day by day. It is not always easy to know just what to do in given circumstances of life, let alone have the courage and strength to put into practice what we sense we are called to do. But we are promised the abiding presence of God’s Holy Spirit, alive and active in the Church, in her Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and in our lives, assisting us in our struggle to do good. Even when we fail sometimes or often, we are not to give up in our efforts.
We cannot truly love if we lack open ears and hearts to the needs of others. We might see the speck in the eye of others and refuse to help them, when in fact we are missing the beam in our own eye. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we are called upon to show genuine interest for the welfare of others, even those whom we may find no attraction toward. Saint Charles de Foucauld (to be canonized in Rome on May 15th, 2022), called himself a “universal brother,” and that should be our goal as well: a brother or sister to all those in need nearby or far from us.
Looking more closely at the scripture readings assigned to the fifth Sunday in Eastertide, we first of all see the realism of Saints Paul and Barnabas in their missionary activity, taking to heart the words of the Lord, “anyone who wishes to come after me must take up his cross.” As Christ had to die and so enter into his glory, so also every follower of Christ.
Suffering, in all its unattractiveness, is part and parcel of the Christian vocation. Tribulation leads to the kingdom and by our suffering we also become partakers in the glory which Christ won for us by the shedding of his blood. This was the experience of Paul and Barnabas as well and meant to be ours too.
The reading from the Book of Revelation, the second lesson for this Sunday’s Mass, speaks of Christ as Lord of the universe ordaining the course of history toward the final victory of, “a new heaven and a new earth.” This means a new creation which will last for ever, a life of endless fellowship with God, an end to all sorrow and finding unbounded joy in God’s presence. This takes place with the fellowship of believers, in communion with all the angels and saints of God.
In the meantime, we disciples are to carry on Christ’s messianic love. We must show to those entrusted to us by God, that is, everyone with whom we live and meet, a love extended to the sacrifice of our own good and life.
As disciples in the service of Christ, we are called to never give up doing good, for the spread of God’s Kingdom on earth. This is the consequence of the Sacrament of Baptism that we have received as infants or at some other stage in our life, that invisible but indelible belonging to God and God to us. In this we are united with Christ through thick and thin.
This Sunday’s Gospel message, from Christ’s Last Supper Discourse, certainly is applicable to our times and lives. The Lord invites us to forget ourselves and thereby find our true self, totally dedicated to God and others without counting the cost or shrinking back in fear.
May the Lord enlighten our minds and hearts to be on fire for the things of God, today and always.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB