May 6, 2018 — Sixth Sunday of Easter
In today’s Gospel from the Book of John, Jesus says, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” The Lord closes this passage by saying, “This I command you: love one another.” In one form or another Jesus tells us to “Love one another” eleven times in the Bible. St. Paul also includes this commandment in his writings as do others, including passages in the Old Testament. Obviously, one could do an entire reflection on what this love means, what it entails, but it has a much greater depth than just talking about it. “Love,” like “stewardship” implies action.
There is something impressive about St. Peter as reflected in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter has clearly grasped what Christ meant when He instructed His followers to “Love one another, as I have loved you.” The passage begins with Peter arriving at the house of Cornelius, who in deference to Peter, falls at Peter’s feet to pay him homage. Peter’s response says everything to us about how to treat others and how we ourselves need to view our own lives.
Peter says, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” Prior to that Peter lifts Cornelius up. The deep faith of Cornelius is well documented in Acts. We learn that Cornelius sent his servants to get Peter and bring him there. Cornelius had certainly heard of Peter and knew of his past and his involvement with Jesus. However, Cornelius also realized that he was a Gentile, and so there may have been some fear on his part that Peter might reject him, or even hesitate to enter his house. Peter’s response to this show of respect from Cornelius is an example of the love about which we are speaking. Peter felt that Cornelius should not show this reverence to Peter, and Peter also felt he should not receive it.
Peter would be the first to tell Cornelius and others that the reverence offered him should be offered to Jesus Christ Himself. As Jesus said, we are to love as He loves us. Peter did that.
The passage from the First Letter of John that comprises our Second Reading could not be more specific on our call to love one another. John opens with “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” We have reflected previously on what words are used for “love” in the Bible. There are two Greek words that are the originals translated as “love” in these instances. Agapaois a verb, and agape is a noun. This is not romantic love; it means affection certainly, but it also means benevolence and concern for the welfare of the one loved. It is deliberate rather than emotional or impulsive. As mentioned in the opening of this reflection, it involves action, demonstrating the forms that this Christian love should take.
St. John is explaining to us that if we know and experience God, then it will be shown in the ways we love one another. We may realize that this kind of love cannot be perfected on this side of eternity. Nevertheless, it must be present in our lives, and it needs to grow throughout our lives. This is a self-giving love that gives without demands or expectations of re-payment. It is God’s kind of love, and for us to love one another more we need to grow closer to God.
In the Gospel from St. John Jesus tells us, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” Jesus loved His followers, His disciples, and also us the way God the Father loved Him. Jesus showed His love for his disciples by teaching them, protecting them, guiding them, sacrificially serving them. God the Father did all that for Jesus.
Jesus did not say “I love you as a mother loves a child,” and He did not say, “I love you the way a husband loves his wife.” If we know Jesus, we understand that He is filled with power, wisdom, truth, holiness, devotion, submission, sacrifice, and many other traits. Yet, He chooses to summarize it for us quite simply by saying, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” That really says it all, doesn’t it? It all seems so simple, but we know what kind of an effort real love requires. That is the effort we are called to put forth.