May 19, 2019 — Fifth Sunday of Easter
Today’s readings on this fifth Sunday of Easter contain inspiring but challenging messages for us Christian stewards.
The Gospel from John includes this well-known verse: “My children… I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
What a succinct description of a stewardship way of life: “love one another as I have loved you.” It sounds so simple. But simple does not necessarily mean easy.
We must look at the context in which Jesus makes this statement. It is the Last Supper. Judas has just stepped out discreetly to turn Jesus over to the authorities who will have Him bound, tortured and crucified.
And, furthermore, exactly how does He call us to love? As He Himself loved. Jesus loved (and loves) by serving us and by making a sacrifice of His very life for us. That is a tall order.
No wonder we find Paul and Barnabas “strengthening” and “exhorting” the early disciples in our First Reading by saying, “it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Notice they don’t say “one or two” hardships or even “the occasional hardship”. They say “many” hardships. So, it should not surprise us when we encounter challenges as we embrace stewardship, as a way of life. If it’s demanding, we should take heart because it means we are doing it right!
Why is this? Living a life of service and self-sacrifice is not easy because it requires us to continuously fight against our selfish inclinations. But the more we empty ourselves of “self” by serving others, the more room we make in our hearts for God pour His grace into us. Amazingly, the more we give our lives away to others, the more He fills us up with Himself who is love itself.
And, in the midst of those inevitable challenging moments this kind of life entails, we can be assured that the Lord — the One who loves us so much that He died for us, and established the Eucharist to be our strength and nourishment — is right here with us every step of the way. Consider these words from Revelation found in our Second Reading today. “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning or pain, for the old order has passed away… Behold, I make all things new.”
As we face the hardships that come with living as Christian stewards, we can continue to rejoice in the wonder of the Resurrection this Easter season, finding great joy in following in our Lord’s own footsteps and in loving as He loves.