May 8, 2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles once again provides the first reading for a weekend in the Easter season.

In this reading, the Apostle Peter enters the house of Cornelius, who falls to his knees to give homage to the leader of the followers of Jesus. Graciously, Peter lifts Cornelius to his feet and insists that he has no partiality among persons of various ethnic and national backgrounds because God has no such partiality.

At the moment of this testimony of faith and true discipleship, the Holy Spirit descends into the group present, including the gentiles. Peter says that anyone so prompted by the Spirit cannot be denied baptism by water.

To set the stage for this reading, Cornelius was not Jewish. He was a gentile. Moreover, he was a Roman, a representative of the detested occupying pagan power. His associates were gentiles.

Despite all this, Peter entered the home of Cornelius, unbelievable for a devout Jew such as Peter. But he went anyway, insisting that all should have access to God and that God welcomes all. Finally, God, in the Holy Spirit, comes into the hearts of all. The Spirit is with Peter. At last, Peter brings all into the company of faith by baptizing them.

The First Epistle of St. John is the source of the second reading. It is a moving passage that offers an especially descriptive message about God’s love. God is love. God is in Jesus. Love is in God. Marvelously, God shares this divine love with the faithful.

God’s love and living according to God’s love brings joy, indeed a joy unequalled by anything on Earth.

The test of loving God is in obeying his commandments. God revealed his commandments, and he perfectly revealed his divine plan for salvation through and in Jesus.

St. John’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. Echoing the message of the second reading, this Gospel passage centers upon the love of God.

It celebrates God’s love. God’s love was proven by the Lord’s willing, sacrificial death on Calvary. “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

Disciples are friends of God when they are united with Jesus in faith and love. For the ancient Jews, as well as others in the Mediterranean world, the notion of friendship was much more powerful in its meaning than it is today. It meant an intense bond, a loyalty.

Truly loving God means to love others. The image of the vine occurs again. Disciples are the branches. Christ is the vine. Disciples produce much fruit if they remain true to Christ.

The reading closes with the wonderful admonition, and command, of Jesus to “love one another” (Jn 15:17).

Reflection

The Church is leading us carefully and deliberately forward to the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. It is as if we Christians had been standing beside the Apostles in the days following the Resurrection, hearing with them the words of the risen Jesus, seeing as they saw the wonder of life victorious over death.

Now, the mood slightly shifts. The Church is preparing us for the Ascension, telling us that while the presence of Jesus on Earth changed, discipleship did not change.

Jesus calls us “to love one another” (Jn 15:17). He is the model. Considering the depth of the divine love displayed in the crucifixion, it is a challenge for mere mortals. Yet it is possible.

It is possible because strength and insight come to any true believer from the Holy Spirit. It is insight that brings peace and joy. It reaches out in compassion and service.

And it comes to anyone who earnestly seeks God, even if they are tempted by sin. Strength is found in God’s love. We are called as disciples to bear this love to others. †

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