FIFTH SUNDAY of EASTER – YEAR C
2 May 2010
Acts 14.21- 27
Mark was a young man of 25 who had been working in an office for 4 years when he contracted a blood disease. He was told by his doctors that he would have to get a complete change of blood which would probably clear up the problem for him. He had an unusual blood type but amazingly 2 of his coworkers had the same blood type. In spite of the amount of blood involved they were able to give the necessary quantity of blood. What surprised Mark most was the fact that he didn’t know the 2 donors very well at that time.
The 2 blood donors put into practice what Jesus commands us all to do in today’s gospel: ‘I give you a new commandment: ‘Love one another just as I have loved you’. What is really new in this commandment? Already in the Old Testament, God’s chosen people were given the commandment to love – ‘you must love your neighbour as yourself’. So is there any difference? Yes, there is – it is the measuring standard of love. Jesus’ love is the model and the measure of how we should love our neighbour. This is what he asks of each of us who claim to be disciples of his.
What is typical of this love of Jesus?
- It is a serving love. Jesus himself said ‘I came not to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many’. Jesus summed up his whole life’s attitude in the humble act of washing his disciples’ feet, in serving, in stooping down. He stoops down to all who are weak especially the poor, the hungry, the sick, the pagans, the non-Jews of his time. Above all, he cared for those whom society marginalised. He showed what attitude a true disciple of his must have in relation to women, to different ethnic or religious groups or to those whose skin colour is different etc. Jesus’ command to love is quite simple but very demanding.
- Jesus’ love is a merciful, forgiving love. He is not someone who came to seek revenge: ‘Father, forgive them they do not know what they are doing’, he said on the cross as he prayed for his enemies. He came to witness to us who our Heavenly Father really is. He is not a God who seeks revenge when we sin, not a God who wants to punish us or send us to hell. Our own choices decide that – not God’s desire. God asks us to respond to his incredible love for us, not out of fear but because of gratitude by loving others.
- The love of Jesus is a constant, dedicated love. He is not a moody God, who one day is in good form and at another time is in bad humour, seeking to chastise us for our wrongdoing. Jesus’ love was a total lifelong commitment to love, service and forgiveness even when the going got very difficult.
It may be easy to love our families, our friends, those we like. But he commands us to love those we do not like, people who may have hurt us, people we have prejudices against, other ethnic groups etc. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus is realistic enough to know that we cannot love all others with the same affection as we love family and friends. Love at its very least means not to wish or do any harm.
I know a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s disease – that is, she has lost her memory completely and now cannot be left alone. So he gave up his job and is constantly there at the service of his wife’s needs. It is a very demanding life for him now. But it reveals the true love that Jesus himself lived out in practice. This man, in fact, does not believe in God but he is living a life of service and love. Going to Church, to Mass, praying rosaries, attending novenas are no guarantee of being a true disciple of Jesus unless they lead us to practise the kind of love Jesus himself lived whilst on earth.
Hopefully most of us do this daily in our family lives, in our homes even if we fail from time to time. Or do my actions witness to a lack of love, with a focus on my own selfishness etc. Jesus is not trying to frighten us or threaten us with punishment but he is saying that we and those we relate to will only have real peace and joy here and now by living his command to love. Putting it as simply as possible: ‘If you want to be truly happy here and now, seek and work for the happiness and the peace of others. If you want to be unhappy, seek your own happiness and peace only’.
In the second reading today we heard how Paul and Barnabas were faithful to their mission in spite of much persecution and suffering. Theirs was a costly love. The writer of the second reading today speaks of his vision of a new heaven and a new earth, something not yet achieved. Will you and I respond to the invitation of Jesus in bringing it about by cooperating with him in loving our brothers and sisters in our daily lives?
“Lord Jesus, it is not easy to love always as you did. It is hard to forgive those who hurt us. It is easier to be selfish at the expense of others. Help us to realise that we cannot do it alone. Give us your Holy Spirit to help us bring about your kingdom here on earth. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA