Reflections on the Readings
Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 17, 2009, Year B
By Dennis Hankins
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
1 John 4:7-10
Theme: Love One Another
Jesus said, "This is my commandment."
What was that again? "Love one another, as I have loved you, this is my commandment."
His love for us is by choice, not chance. And maybe that's what distinguishes divine love from human love. Choosing to look beyond our fault and seeing our need, Jesus, in love of the Father, lays down his life for his friends. You and I are Jesus' friends if we love one another as he has loved us.
Efforts of mass destruction gave us the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the calculated genocide of Jews. Multiplied thousands of lives have been destroyed by godless regimes. The present administration, expressing dismay over water boarding, has no qualms about partial birth abortion. It would seem that any violence destroying the imago dei, is mutually unacceptable. Inhumane treatment of humanity continues at an alarming capacity coupled with creativity excuses about its necessity.
Yet in the Church, a community which is not of this world, is the capacity to be a civilization of love. Pope Benedict XVI has this past week been a messenger of this civilization of love in the Holy Land. It is a radical message, a message Jesus has given us, "Love your enemies, do good to those who despise you." Gripped by the promise of what this love can achieve, each of us becomes responsible to embrace the way of the Master.
I remember my first teenage employment as a Janitor's helper at a local elementary school, in Huntingburg, Indiana. The Janitor, Lloyd "Red" Bayer, had to leave for a while and left me in charge of finishing the scrubbing of a classroom floor. Upon his return, he asked me if I had kept working. I guess it was obvious what had happened. I said, "Well, I kept moving." You can laugh now.
Sometimes we practice our faith like that. We go through the motions, and take little thought how we are all in this together. There is much to be gained in ordering our lives around this love which is civil, friendly, and has the enormous capacity to build up the body of Christ. Our joy is not the joy of Jesus, if our connection to one another is shallow and dismissive.
There is much we can learn from one another. In my childhood church, we called one another brother and sister. This was not only a sign of respect, but of real belief that Jesus' blood was thicker than human blood. We each shared in the redemption of Jesus' blood. And this made us brothers and sisters.
At the Eucharist, the Priest says, "Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father."
He asks us to pray as brothers and sisters, not mere acquaintances or occasional contacts, but in the bond of real family life, as brothers and sisters. A reader of these Reflections once wrote me saying he believed it was providential that we had met and become friends. Each of us have a connection that is providential, a choice God made for you and me to meet. So as a song from my Pentecostal background says, "If your heart today is as my heart, then give me your hand."
It is with great hope of showing the world a new and living way that we embrace one another as friends. We are on level ground at the foot of the cross, so there is no big sinner here or a bigger one over there; all have sinned.
Our culture today needs the kind of love which is unconditional. Such a gift of ourselves to one another and to the world is a gift that keeps on giving. Great songs, great stories, and great art flow from such a life liberated by the love which is from above.
If there is to be a new dawn for our world, it will come with a new outpouring of the Spirit of love, such as fell upon Cornelius and his household. Peter described that outpouring of the Spirit as the same as had come upon the 120 in the Upper Room.
As then, so even now can we receive from the God of Love the gracious empowerment of His Holy Spirit to love one another as he has loved us.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, help me to embrace the love that is greater, for the sake of my brothers and sisters and my neighbors. Amen.