6th Sunday of Easter
|Stained Glass Window|
Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles contains one of the most important passages in all of Holy Scripture. The Roman centurion Cornelius, a Gentile but a god-fearing man had sent messengers to summon Peter to his house. Before the messengers arrived Peter had a vision in which God had shown him that no one, whatever their race or nation, could be called unclean or unworthy. When Peter arrived at the home of Cornelius, he realized that the vision had meant that he could share a meal with a non-Jewish person. He says,
In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightlyIs acceptable to him.
Is that all there is to it? Do we just have to fear God and act uprightly? What does it mean to fear God? Maybe, respect is a better word. But how do we respect God and act uprightly? Today’s gospel provides the answer. This passage is taken from the last words of Jesus to his disciples before his Passion and Death. Last week, he referred to Himself as the vine and told us to remain attached to Him like the branches of the vine. This week he tells us that the way to remain attached to Him is to keep his commandments.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,Just as I have kept my Father’s commandmentsAnd remain in his love.
Ordinarily, we don’t like commandments. We get our backs up at a long list of do’s and don’ts. But the commandment of Jesus seems remarkably simple.
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.
It is true that Jesus is predicting his own suffering and death in this passage but I don’t think he is saying that we all have to suffer a cruel persecution like so many Christian martyrs suffer even in our own time. He is saying that his disciples will have to lead of life of selflessness, not selfishness. If we want to love Him, we will have to love one another. Throughout the gospels Jesus deflects our love to our neighbor.
Today is Mother’s day and there is no greater love than the love of a mother for her children even when those children are no longer children. When our mothers took upon themselves the responsibility to care for us, they said yes to a life of self-sacrifice. They said yes just as Mary did at the Annunciation. It might not be fashionable to use the word “handmaid” of the Lord anymore, but when we think of our mothers or look around at all the mothers in church, we can really behold handmaids of the Lord.
In today’s second reading from the first letter of John we are again told that to fear God and live uprightly means simply to love one another, especially those entrusted to our care.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God…
* Image by Melissa DeStefano
Reading 1. Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Reading II. I John 4: 7-10
Gospel. John 15: 9-17 (love one another)