May 15, 2009

Sixth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles once more provides an Easter season liturgy with its first reading.

The reading relates an important lesson. Peter goes to the house of Cornelius, whose name suggests that he was a Gentile and likely a Roman. His relatives and guests that day probably also were Gentiles and Romans.

For devout, loyal Jews, if anything was worse than being a Gentile, and of pagan stock, it was being a Roman. After all, Jews at the time were living under the crushing, unmerciful heel of Rome. Understandably, representatives of the Roman occupation especially were despised.

Yet, even these Gentiles understood what Peter was saying. God was reaching out to them, not only just to the Chosen People.

The lesson is that they understood Peter’s proclamation of Jesus, and that Peter, the chief of the Apostles, accepted them in baptism.

When Cornelius attempts to pay homage to Peter, Peter stops him. Peter protests that he is only human. Peter is not God. However, he was Christ’s appointed representative and possessed power given to him by Christ, the Son of God.

The First Epistle of John is the source of the second reading.

This reading has given Christians several of the best-known passages of the New Testament. It calls upon followers of Jesus to love each other. It states that God is love. God’s love for humanity revealed itself in the gift of Jesus, and in the salvation achieved by Jesus for all who turn to God.

St. John’s majestic Gospel furnishes the last reading.

It is a reservoir of theology presented in the most eloquent language.

The reading’s message is frank and direct. If anyone truly loves God, then this person will keep his commandments. By observing his commandments, people live in God’s love.

Living in God’s love produces joy. Thus, living by his commandments, because of love for God, brings joy into human life.

As the reading concludes, Jesus declares that no love exceeds the love that impels a person to surrender life itself so that a friend may live.

“You are my friends,” Jesus says. We are not slaves. For us, Jesus willingly submitted to death by crucifixion.

Through Jesus, God chose us to live in the most preferred and special role, that of being the friends of God.

Then, as the reading’s last remark, Jesus instructs us “to love one another.”


The second reading makes quite clear the theological fact that loving is not simply an activity of God, but rather that God is love.

What does this mean? From God’s very character, identity and reality, selfishness is absent. Insecurity, the root of selfishness, is absent. God has nothing to fear. He lives forever—forever giving life. God creates. God redeems.

When Christians are called to love each other, they are asked to be what they should be if their circumstances were not upset by sin. Love is much more than warm-heartedness or kind gestures. Loving God requires us to keep his commandments.

We are humans and God’s children. Since Jesus was the son of Mary, a human, we are brothers and sisters of Christ in our human nature.

Created by God, with the Lord as our brother, we properly should mirror Jesus in our lives. He gave his life itself on Calvary as an act of love for us and an act of homage to God. Our love must be as intense.

How can we approach Jesus? Where can we find Jesus? Christ comes to us through and in the Church. In the sacraments and God’s word, Jesus still lives. In the Church, the divine power given to Peter still lives. †

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