Homily (Reflection) for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (B) (09th May, 2021) on the Gospel
Ps 97:1-4 (R. cf. V. 2);
“A woman died and found herself standing outside the Pearly Gates and being greeted by Saint Peter. She asked him, ‘Oh, is this place what I really think it is? It’s so beautiful! Did I really make it to heaven?”
“Saint Peter replied, ‘Yes, my dear, these are the Gates of Heaven. But you must do one more thing before you can enter.’”
Saint Peter asked the woman to spell any word of her choice. She chose and spelt love correctly. But after congratulating her, Saint Peter asked her to take his place for a few minutes while he went to the bathroom. When the woman asked Saint Peter what she would do should there be any newcomer, “Saint Peter reassured her and instructed the woman to simply have any newcomers to the Pearly Gates spell a word as she had done.”
The woman was “sitting in Saint Peter’s chair and watching the beautiful angels soaring around her, when lo and behold, a man approached the gates, and she realized it was her husband. ‘What happened?’ she cried, ‘Why are you here?”
“Her husband stared at her for a moment, and then said, ‘I was so upset when I left your funeral, I was in an accident. And now I am here. Did I really make it to Heaven?
“To which the woman replied, ‘Not yet. You must spell a word first.’
‘What word?’ he asked.
The woman responded, ‘Czechoslovakia.’”
[Culled from Thomas, T. (2010). Spice up your homilies. Mumbai: St Pauls, pp. 72-3].
Topic: Abiding in His love.
Today’s gospel is the continuation of last Sunday’s. We emphasized last Sunday on the importance of abiding in Jesus Christ. We are faced today with the price: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.... This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you...” (Jn 15:10, 12; cf. 1Jn 2:5; 3:23).
It is important to look at two things among others: love, and how Christ loves us. The book of Proverbs reads: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Prov 10:12). Again, “Whoever covers an offence promotes love ...” (Prov 17:9). And for Saint Paul, “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:10). God desires steadfast love and not sacrifice (Hos 6:6). Saint Paul also wrote, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8; Gal 5:14). Saint Peter has this, “... hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1Pt 4:8). And for Saint John, “Perfect love casts out fear”, cf. 1Jn 4:18.
Love is both the mark of the children of God as well as the disciples of Jesus Christ, cf. 1Jn 3:10; Jn 13:35. We also read, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love” (1Jn 4:7-8). Again, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1Jn 3:14).
Jesus loves us the way the Father loves Him and wants us to love each other as He loves us, cf. Jn 15:9; Jn 13:15, 34; 15:12; 1Pt 2:21. In the words of Saint John, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jn 3:16). Even while lamenting for Jerusalem, Jeremiah remembered that “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end” (Lam 3:22). However, love often hurts.
Saint John urges all, “let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1Jn 3:18). Again, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good” (Rom 12:9). So the love we ought to have for others must be concretized in deeds.
Love of neighbour is more serious than we often think. Saint John rightly cautions, “Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1Jn 3:15). Saint Paul sums up, “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Rom 13:9). And since the love of God is made manifest in the love of neighbour, anyone who does not love his neighbour is cursed, cf. 1Cor 16:22. Anyone who “... says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn 4:20). Love of the neighbour is “the supreme Law of scripture”, cf. Jas 2:8.
Although there is a popular saying, “Onye kenee Sunny, Sunny ekenee ya”, but the love Christ instructs us to have towards others does not follow this line of thought. Hence Christ tells us:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matt 5:43-44, 46).
We also see the example God left for us in the first letter of Saint John:
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1Jn 4:9-12).
And for Saint Paul: “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). And according to the Psalmist, God’s “... steadfast love is better than life” (Ps 63:3).
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must love one another just as God loves us. Let us not make things more difficult for others like the woman we saw in our introductory story who although chose and spelt love could not extend it even to her own husband. If we love our brothers and sisters, we have much more to gain than what we might lose in this life, cf. 1Cor 2:9. I conclude with the words of Saint Paul: “... brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2Cor 13:11).
Bible Reading: 1Cor 13:1-13; 1Jn 2:29 –3:24; 4:7-21; 1Pt 2:18-25; Heb 10:19-25; Gal 5:2-26.
Thought for today: How much do you love your neighbour?
Let us pray: God, it is only by your grace that we can love as we should. We plead for your grace to love all just as you love us – Amen.
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