Homily Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B The centrality of love

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Homily: Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B


Reading 1: What is the background?  Cornelius was a Gentile official. He had a vision in which he was told to send for a man name Peter and he would reveal God’s plan. He did. Peter shortly after this, while in prayer, had a vision. In this vision he saw clean and unclean animals. He heard a voice say: “Eat”. He answered “I have never eaten anything unclean.” The voice said: “There is nothing unclean, which I have made.”  When the men arrived sent by Cornelius, Peter went with them and entered into Cornelius’ house.  Being a faithful member of the Covenant, it was not acceptable to enter into a pagan’s house.


Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, began to share with Cornelius. Acting on the vision he had, Peter said: “God shows no partiality…Everyone who fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”  While Peter is proclaiming the good news of salvation to Cornelius, the Holy Spirit came upon him and his whole household. They began to speak in tongues, glorifying God. This was the same gift Peter had received on the Day of Pentecost.


Peter’s response was a conviction given to him by the Holy Spirit. “What should prevent these people from being baptized in the saving waters, since they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit.”  God shows no partiality. He calls whom he calls and is not limited to human laws and interpretations. Why? God is love and expresses his love to each person differently.


Gospel: Jesus is speaking to the disciples in the context of the Last Supper.  In John’s theology, Jesus gives his last will and testament to his disciples. He is about to embrace death by crucifixion. The first thing he taught them was the necessity of having a servant’s heart, so he washed their feet. He taught them about remaining in him and he in them, using the image of the vine and the branch. He taught them about the work of the Holy Spirit, who is to come upon them.


Then he reflected with them on the centrality of love as a mark of being his disciple.  Early in the Gospel, John said: “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him may be saved.”  Here, Jesus underscores his own love for them. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you…No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Later, Paul will say that “the love of God is poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” All of the ways God shows us his love confirms the message of Peter in the first reading: “God shows no partiality.”


The focus of Jesus in today’s Gospel is not God’s love for us. That is a given. The focus is our love for God.  First of all, am I really convinced at the very core of my being that I am loved by God? Am I convicted by Jesus’s death and resurrection of the depth of God’s love for me? If Jesus would ask me the same questions which he asked Peter after the resurrection, how would I respond? The question, asked three times to Peter: “Do you love me the way I love you?” Peter’s response: “Yes, I do love you, but my love is not yet perfected.”


Listen to Jesus in today’s Gospel. “Remain in my love.” If we love Jesus in response to his love, then we want to remain in his love and avoid the sin that would separate us from him. How do we remain in his love? “Keep my commandments and you will remain in my love.” This is another way of saying “choose to embrace my will for you in any given moment, just as I did the will of my Father, even to the death of the cross”.


As we know the two great commandments are the love of God and the love of others.  The command in the Old Testament was to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus raises the bar: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” His love for us was a sacrificial love. He laid down his life for us. Our love for others, following his example, is to be sacrificial. This love will have lasting effect in us.


When love is the expression of our relationship with God, what is a fruit of this love. Jesus said: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”  Who among us does not want joy in our lives? Jesus tells us it doesn’t come from satisfying ourselves but in loving others the way he has loved us. It is the joy, which Paul will later identify as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit when we are in union with God, doing his will.


Reading 2:  In his First Letter, John continues to teach about the necessity of love. He reminds us that God is love and has first loved us. How? He created us out of love. He redeemed us out of love. He adopted us as his sons and daughters out of love. He sustains us humanly and spiritually out of love.


St. Terese of Avila captured our response in this phrase. “Love can be responded to only by love.” Though our love for God in response to his love for us will always be limited, it is still our duty to respond with love. God doesn’t need our love, for he is perfect in himself. But God desires us to respond to his love with love so that we may come to the fulfillment of our being. We were loved into life. We will experience the fullness of life only when we live and die in love. 

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