Loving Christ’s Command of Love, 5th Friday of Easter, May 19, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 19, 2017
Acts 15:22-31, Ps 57, Jn 15:12-17

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Throughout this 15th chapter of St. John’s Gospel, recounting what Jesus said during the Last Supper, Jesus has been focusing on the type of communion he came into the world to bring about, communion with him and with others. He began with the image of the Vine and the Branches. Yesterday and today he has focused on how that ontological union with him (brought about by the sacraments) is meant to lead into a moral union, a union based on communion in his love.
  • Yesterday he said the most important words ever uttered, that just as God the Father loves him, so he loves each of us individually. He calls us to remain in that love, to hunger for it, to choose it, and tells us the means by which we will is through keeping his commandments, the commandments that precisely train us to love God and love others. All the love and the prophets, all the commandments in other words, hang on the two-fold imperative to love God with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And he tells us that remaining in his love in this way is the path to true and unending happiness, so that Jesus’ joy may be in us and our joy complete.
  • Today he specifies more clearly what his commandment is in which we are supposed to abide. He gives us “his” commandment, which he also calls “new.” It’s the summary of the Christian moral life. “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus loves us, he told us yesterday, as much as the Father loves him, which is a total, self-sacrificial love to the extreme. Jesus didn’t call us to love him as he loved us, but to love others at the level of total self-sacrificial love. Jesus teaches us this same truth after the resurrection when he gives St. Peter three times to reconstitute his fidelity after his three fold denial. Jesus asks three times whether he loves him more than everything else and three times Peter replies that he does. Jesus, in response to each, doesn’t stop there in mutual love. He says, “Feed my sheep.” “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” Peter’s love for Jesus would be shown in how he cares for those Christ has entrusted to him, both old (sheep) as well as young or vulnerable (lambs). And Jesus told Peter, using a euphemism for crucifixion, that when he would grow old, he would love the Lord and others in imitation of Christ. It’s the same way with all of us. Our love for the Lord will be shown by our love for others and not just by any old feelings of sympathy, but by our willingness to give our lives for others, which begins with giving our time, using our talents, and willingly putting others’ lives above our own. Two years ago, when this Gospel came up at daily Mass, Pope Francis made this point: “Jesus says something remarkable to us: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ Love always takes this path: to give one’s life. To live life as a gift, a gift to be given — not a treasure to be stored away. And Jesus lived it in this manner, as a gift. … We must not burn out life with selfishness.”
  • Jesus tells us today that he has chosen us, he has given us the vocation, precisely to love in this way. “I have chosen you and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” The way we bear fruit is by attaching ourselves to Jesus the Vine, by uniting ourselves with him who is the Grain of Wheat as he falls to the ground in loving sacrifice (Jn 12:24). And once we’re united in this way, we’re able to ask God the Father for anything and he’ll do it, because we will not be praying things apart from God and his will, but asking precisely in a total communion with Jesus’ salvific aims for us and others.
  • This communion in love is the proper way to understand today’s first reading as well. They weren’t going to concern the Gentile converts with all 613 precepts of the Old Covenant, but wanted them to be focused on the new commandment of the New Covenant. They gave them only three restrictions, each meant to help them remain in God’s love: to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols so that they wouldn’t scandalize others, which would be contrary to love of neighbor; from blood, which was a sign of life and take the place of God as Lord of life, which would again be a scandal and a lack of reverence for God; and from porneia, which is far more than unlawful marriage, but all sexual sin, which corrupts our capacity to love like God when we become takers rather than givers, consumers rather than servants, predators rather than protectors.
  • Today as we prepare to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, as he lays down his life for us as our food and tells us to do this in memory of him, we ask him — with the confidence that whatever we ask the Father in his name he’ll give us if we bear the fruit that will remain — to help us do what he commands, to love so that we might become living commentaries of “his” commandment, which is the means by which we will grow in the image of God who is love outpoured.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ACTS 15:22-31

The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church,
decided to choose representatives
and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.
The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas,
and Silas, leaders among the brothers.
This is the letter delivered by them:
“The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers,
to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia
of Gentile origin: greetings.
Since we have heard that some of our number
who went out without any mandate from us
have upset you with their teachings
and disturbed your peace of mind,
we have with one accord decided to choose representatives
and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas
who will also convey this same message by word of mouth:
‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us
not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,
namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols,
from blood, from meats of strangled animals,
and from unlawful marriage.
If you keep free of these,
you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’”
And so they were sent on their journey.
Upon their arrival in Antioch
they called the assembly together and delivered the letter.
When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 57:8-9, 10 AND 12

R. (10a) I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and chant praise.
Awake, O my soul; awake, lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn.
R. I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O LORD,
I will chant your praise among the nations.
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the skies.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
above all the earth be your glory!
R. I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
JN 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.”