The Sixth Sunday of Easter
2018 – Cycle B
Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 98; I John 4:7-10; John 15: 9-17
I understand that there are now a whole host of new emoticons, those little yellow faces expressing the sender’s emotions that people use with their texts and emails. By themselves, a sentence of words can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Without context, tone of voice, and facial expressions, the greater part of human communication, a message can be terribly misunderstood. Have you ever misread a text?
The Gospels can also come across that way, a hosts of words, or because we listen to passages in small portions we can forget the context. Have you ever realized that most of the Gospel passages for the Easter Season are Jesus’ words to us hours before he will be arrested, tortured and executed? In their initial context they are not the words of Christ risen but of Jesus who is about to die and he knows it.
I am reminded of people who often in their senior years or during a serious illness know their life is coming to a completion. They begin putting aspects of life in order. Common, ordinary words, phrases, off the cuff remarks, if you are aware, take on a depth of meaning they otherwise do not have. Knowingly or not, the person is both conveying their knowledge that they are going to die and summoning up what is most important. In this context, how much greater depth do Jesus’ words carry about loving one another, joy and friendship?
Though Jesus teaches us many things, he only uses the word commandment once. “This I command you: love one another.” What does that mean?
We hear in the First Letter of John that “God is love” and “the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his Son into the world that we might have life…” Have you considered that each of us, daughters and sons of God, have been sent into the world so that other people may have life? How are you and I life for other people?
John offers an example of love: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” We must first accept love if we are to love. Love’s origin is never within a person but only as a response. Again we encounter being sent to love. As sons and daughters how do we participate in the forgiving of other people’s sins and the healing of the world?
In being life for others and in healing people’s lives, Jesus says is found joy. Joy because then there is no distinction between Jesus and us. Is it a coincidence that the three Apostolic Exhortations of Pope Frances deal with joy? Consider just the titles of his teachings: The Joy of the Gospel on proclaiming the Gospel to our world; The Joy of Love on love within the family and his latest, Rejoice and be glad on the call to holiness. An Apostolic Exhortation is a form of communication from the pope to encourage all Catholic Christians to undertake a particular activity. Francis is on a roll. Is it joy that he sees is missing in the lives of Christians? In relation to the past weeks in reflecting on why young people and others are intentionally leaving the Catholic Church, consider… What would most draw people to Jesus? Does doctrine? Do judgements? Do hard and fast rules? These are the characteristics we Catholics seem to be noted for whether true or not. Perception is more important than reality in our culture. Francis is banking on reclaiming the joy of the resurrection. “Where not our hearts burning within us when he spoke to us on the way?” exclaim the disciples of Emmaus. Remember Jesus speaks of joy within hours of being abandoned, arrested, tortured and crucified. He will suffer and die that you and I have life. He will suffer and die that our sins are forgiven. In this context, how does a person speak of joy? Yet Jesus does.
How does a person speak of friendship, when he knows the “boys” are going to abandon him? Yet Jesus does. “I have called you friends…” These words are said to all disciples of Jesus. They are words said to you and me, “I have called you friends…to go and bear fruit that will remain.” Again we encounter the idea of sending, “to go and bear fruit”. Some liturgists have suggested that one of the most important phrases of the Eucharist are the final words: “Go, you are sent!”
And so we are sent; sent to love one another, to give life to others, to forgive and heal, to be joy–filled even in pain and sorrow, to be friends of God and friends with each other even in abandonment.
In the bearing of fruit people will come to experience Christ risen!