May 17: Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B
Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 30, 35, 44-48; 1John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17
The three readings of this Sunday invite us to reflect on God's universal love, expressed in Jesus Christ whom God sends as our model for loving others as God has loved us. In the first reading, Peter is on his first mission to the Gentiles. He realizes that God has already taken the initiative in pouring out the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household. The event changes Peter's attitude who then understands the meaning of God’s action. "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”Peter’s experience affirms God's universal love and salvation of all. This truth is again affirmed in the responsorial psalm where we pray, "The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power". This theme of God's universal love is summed up in the second reading where John links three ideas together: loving others, knowing God and having life in God and in Jesus Christ. John leads us to discover our call to imitate Christ in his "greater love" for us.
The Gospel reading continues the theme of union with Christ started in last Sunday's Gospel in the parable of the vine and the branches. In today's passage, the focus is on the mystery of God's universal love for all without exception, a God who loves us first. "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. This final discourse of Jesus to his disciples touches on the very centre of our Christian life and our relationship with others. "This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you". Jesus reminds us that he has chosen us and appointed us to go and bear fruit that will endure. We can only produce such fruit if we remain in his love; if we keep his commandment of loving one another. We are invited here to reflect on the example of Christ who has loved us to the point of suffering and death on the cross for us. The ultimate expression of Jesus' love for us is the cross - the "greater love" which emanates from the Father. "Greater love than this no one has". To love others as Jesus did is indeed a great challenge for us. He loves all without exception, without discrimination, without preference. He loves all to the point of death, death on the cross. To love others to the point of death is to be prepared to risk one's life for others; to give up one’s comfort for the sake of others; to detach oneself and in all humility to empty oneself of pride, so we may become totally for others. This example of Jesus leads us to die to self so that others may have life in its fullness. What message do we take home? 1) The readings challenge us to love all people that come into our lives without exception just as Jesus does; 2) Like Jesus, we too must be prepared to lay down our lives for others; to speak on behalf of the poor; on behalf of those debt burdened, even when that might mean risking our lives, out of a greater love for others. 3) The only way we know that we remain in the love of Jesus is by loving others as Jesus has loved us to the point of dying on the cross for us.
©2009 John M. Mbinda