May 2: Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C
Readings: Acts 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-33,34-35
All three readings of this Sunday speak about the newness brought about by the resurrection of Jesus Christ and celebrated by the Church during the Easter Season. The readings are therefore in tune with the freshness of this season. Practically every parish around the world experiences the joy and wonder of receiving new members into the faith through Baptism at Easter. Such an experience gives newness to the parish life, as the community welcomes new members and accompanies them on their journey of faith. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas after their first missionary journey, give an account to the Church in Antioch of all that God had done with them, and how God had opened the door of faith to the pagans. Through their pastoral visits, Paul and Barnabas had put fresh life into the hearts of the newly baptized. But Paul is quick to remind members of the local Christian communities that they would have to suffer before entering the Kingdom of God. In other words, true discipleship includes the readiness to suffer even die for the faith.
The farewell discourse of Jesus in the Gospel brings newness and a challenge. “I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you should love one another”. That sounds simple and straight forward until we begin to realize what Jesus is really asking us to do. In this passage, Jesus challenges us to live the new commandment, which implies the demand to follow his example – “as I have loved you”. That is the mark of a true, genuine disciple. Being Christian is not about knowing the faith or knowing what the catechism says. It is first and foremost about relationship with Jesus and with one another. The hymn “They will know we are Christians by our love” captures best what Jesus expects of us. Jesus expects us in this parish to love each other. He did not ask his disciples to “like” each other! That would be easy. Loving each other is much more demanding. It is more than just a casual smile or a greeting at the door when you arrive at the Church door or when leaving. It is the test by which you and I will be judged by the world around us. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Only through this unconditional love can we give authentic witness to the world, that we are Christ's disciples. Such a love makes us more credible, more effective instruments of God’s transforming action that brings about the new creation that John speaks about in the Book of Revelation. John reminds us that God can only come to us and make his home among us, if we live the new Commandment of love. God will then make his dwelling among us; wipe away all tears from our eyes; remove pain and death from our midst because the Risen Lord, through our right living with each other, will “make all things new.” Moreover, others will see our example and want to become Christian. One is reminded of what Mahatma Gandhi said once in an interview when asked why he did not want to become Christian. He said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." So what is the message this Sunday? 1) Our love for one another in this parish community is the criterion and the key to our authentic witness and service; 2) In other words “charity begins at home,” but does not end there; 3) If we truly love one another then we will be able to convince others to join us, and God will then make his dwelling among us; wipe away all tears from our eyes; and remove pain and death from our midst.
©2010 John S. Mbinda