Easter 6 B - As I love you



Fr. Tony Kadavil:
Readings
First Reading: Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Second Reading: 1 John 4: 7-10
Gospel: John 15: 9-17

Anecdotes

1) God’s love in action:   When Fr. Damien arrived in Molokai to assemble a prefabricated church for the lepers, he spent the first few weeks sleeping out under the trees, because he was unable to cope with the stench in the hovels of the lepers. He certainly wouldn't dare preach to them about God's love for them, because, as they saw it, that would be offensive. But slowly he opened his heart to the grace of God which enabled him to see the suffering Jesus in them. In no time, he was washing them, bandaging them, and burying them. He came to love them, and, through him, they came to believe that God loved them. He smoked a pipe to counteract the stench, but he soon was passing the pipe around for others to have a smoke. He ate food with them from a common bowl, out of which they scooped the food with hands that had no fingers. He caught the disease himself, and he was happy to be able to live and to die for them. Thus, St.  Damien followed Jesus’ commandment of love given in todays gospel: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
2) "No one has greater love than this In 1941, the German Army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, the lives of at least 250 Jews were spared. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942. It took Germany almost sixty years to honor the memory of this man, Schmid. Said Germany's Defense Minister in 2000, saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist." Name a person who better obeyed the admonition of the Christ in today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers. (Fr. James Gilhooley).

Introduction

Today’s scripture passages declare the profound truth that those who believe in Christ and obey his commandment of love remain in, abide, dwell in God and God in them.  In the first reading,  Peter teaches us that God shows no partiality in His love and that there are no boundaries to abiding in love. God loves everyone, both the Jews and the Gentiles, and wants everyone to be saved through His son Jesus. That is why God welcomed the Roman centurion Cornelius as the first non-Jew to become a Christian.   The reading tells us how God also allowed the Gentiles who heard Peter’s speech to receive the same Holy Spirit and His gifts that Peter’s Jewish audience had received on the day of Pentecost.  Today's psalm also directs our attention toward God's marvelous love and kindness in offering salvation to the whole world. In the second reading, John defines God as love and explains that He expressed His love for mankind by sending His son to die for us humans as expiation for our sins.”  This divine love gives us the command as well as duty to love one another as we have been loved by God. Since God has loved us first, we can and should love God in return, love ourselves and love one another. After telling the parable of the vine and branches, Jesus, i n  t o day’ s  g o spel,  explains precisely how the disciples are to remain bonded to  him as branches are bonded to a vine.   They are to obey his commandment of love, just as he has  obeyed his heavenly  Father’s  will  by  fulfilling  His  commandments and remaining inseparably  bonded  with  his Father.  Jesus unconditional, forgiving, selfless, sacrificial love for us must be the criterion of our love for others.  The highest expression of this love is our willingness to lay down our lives as Jesus did, for people who don’t deserve it. The goal and result of our abiding in love, in God, will be perfect joy. Jesus calls us friends; he tells us that he has chosen us, and that, if we use his name, we can ask the Father for anything


First reading, Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48: One of the early Church's first struggles was to decide whether God was calling the early Christians to be a sect entirely within Judaism, or one that extended outward and welcome others who believed in Jesus.  The decision to yoke the Jews and the Gentiles together was a tough one for the Judeo-Christians and a welcome sign for the converts from pagan religions.  In todays first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we see the start of the process.   The episode begins earlier in Acts, Chapter 10, where Peter and the Roman centurion Cornelius (a good pagan), are given interlocking, visions.  Acts describes how the heavenly messenger instructed Cornelius to send to Joppa for Peter.  In a trance, a voice bid Peter to eat non-kosher foods. Peter called this unthinkable, but the voice insisted that what God had purified no one might call unclean. The worldwide Gentile mission was later to begin with this formerly-pagan centurion.  The Holy Spirit guiding the Church would use Cornelius to assist Paul in transforming the early Church from an exclusively Jewish establishment to a dominantly Gentile and western European reality.

During his meeting with Cornelius, Peter made a speech giving Cornelius and his pagan household and friends the assurance that everyone “who fears Him is acceptable to God” and God shows no partiality.”  As they all received the anointing of the Holy Spirit while listening to Peter’s preaching, Peter ordered them to be baptized then and there.  This story teaches three lessons: 1) Authentic changes must be expected as part of the Church's ongoing mission under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.   2) New directions result ultimately from the Holy Spirit's guidance rather than from merely human decisions.  3) The ecclesiastical leadership has the right and obligation to teach and carry out divinely-willed new instructions.

Second Reading, 1 John 4:7-10: This passage contains the greatest single statement about God in the whole Bible, namely, God is love. It means that (i) Love has its origin in God (1 Jn 4:7). According to Clement of Alexandria, the real Christian "practices being God."  God is love and, therefore, to be like God and be what he was meant to be, man must also love. (ii) Love has a double relationship to God. It is only by knowing God that we learn to love and it only by loving that we learn to know God (1 Jn 4:7-8).  In other words, love comes from God, and love leads to God. (iii) It is by love that God is known, and the best demonstration of God comes, not from argument, but from a life of love. (iv) God's love is demonstrated in Jesus Christ (1 Jn 4:9). When we look at Jesus we see two things about the love of God.
(a) It is a love which holds nothing back (even sacrificing His Son).  (b) It is a totally undeserved love because God loves poor and disobedient creatures like us.  God’s love also explains many things: (a) It explains creation (God wants to love someone). (b) It explains free-will. Unless love is a free response it is
not love. (c) It explains providence. Since God is love, his creating act is followed by his constant care. (d) It explains redemption. The very fact that God is love meant that he had to seek and save that which was lost. He had to find a remedy for sin. (e) It explains the life beyond. The fact that God is love makes it certain that the chances and changes of life do not have the last word and that his love will readjust the balance of this life.  This passage also teaches us that Jesus is: (i) the bringer of life, (ii) the restorer of the lost relationship with God, (iii) the Savior of the world (1 Jn 4:14) and (iv) the Son of God (1 Jn 4:15).

Exegesis

We need to choose obedience to experience the abiding love of God: Today's Gospel reading comes from the middle of Jesus' so-called "Farewell Discourse," a lengthy section running from chapters 14 through chapter 17.  It is the heart-to-heart after-dinner "table-talk” of Jesus with his disciples.  Fundamentally, the first half of chapter 15 is about love: the love of God for Jesus, the love of Jesus for his disciples and the love of the disciples for Jesus.  Verse 9 declares that there is no distinguishing difference between the love of the Father for the Son and that which the Son has for his chosen disciples.  But, even though this love is steadfast and sure, it is also a love that may be lost.  Thus, Jesus urges his disciples to "abide" or "remain" in his love.   The "condition" of this unconditional love is spelled out in verse 10 - "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” The disciples must receive, respond to, Jesus love by keeping his commandments if they are to be able to continue receiving Jesus' love.  There is both respect and freedom for the disciples' chosen actions implicit in this design.  But Jesus next reminds his followers that he, too, has been free to act in obedience or disobedience to his Father's commandments, and he has offered himself as a model of obedience and abiding love.  Indeed the "joy" Jesus goes on to speak of in verse 11 is


the joy that he knows as a result of his absolute obedience to the Father, and the perfect unity they share. Thus, Jesus urges his disciples to choose obedience and to experience his abiding love so that they may also experience this kind of total joy.

 The new commandment:  Jesus clarifies the second of His two-commandment summary of the Torah’s Ten Commandments, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” as one short sentence Love one another,” with an added, specific and intimidating parameter, "as I have loved you." "Love one another" is in the present imperative state, grammatically testifying to Jesus' moral intent - that this be a continuous, ever- present love.  “As I have loved youmeans a selfless, sacrificial, forgiving and serving love.

The joy: The theme of "joy" is introduced here in verse 11.  Jesus' "joy" comes from a relationship of perfect obedience to the Father and the unity that the Father and Son therefore share.  But even this joy can be expanded.   It can be made more "complete." "Completed" or "fulfilled" joy (also used in 3:29) is accomplished when Jesus' disciples enter into the obedient, loving relationship between the Father and the Son by their own loving obedience.

Not slaves but friends: Jesus tells his followers that he does not call them slaves anymore; he calls them friends.  In the Bible, doulos, the slave, the servant of God was no title of shame; it was a title of the highest honor.  Moses was the doulos of God (Deuteronomy 34: 5); so was Joshua (Joshua 24: 29); so was David (Psalm 89: 20).  It is a title which Paul counted it an honor to use (Titus 1: 1); and so did James (James 1: 1). The greatest men in the past had been proud to be called the douli, the slaves of God.  But Jesus says: "I have something greater for you yet. You are no longer slaves; you are friends."  Christ offers an intimacy with God which not even the greatest men knew before Jesus came into the world. The idea of being the friend of God also has a biblical background. Abraham was the friend of God (Isaiah 4 1: 8).  In Wisdom 7:
27, Wisdom is said to make us the friends of God.  In Rome in the first century, the friends of the king and the emperor were those who had the closest and the most intimate connection with him.  Jesus has called us to be his friends and the friends of God.  Jesus has given us this intimacy with God, so that he is no longer a distant stranger, but our close friend.

Discipleship by divine selection: The unmerited quality of this divine friendship is further emphasized by Jesus' declaration in verse 16, "You did not choose me but I chose you." Discipleship comes about by divine choice, not by human merits and actions. The prescribed outcome of this choice is the disciples'
ability now to go out and "bear fruit," bear abiding fruit.  The love, the friendship that comes from Christ is tangibly manifested in the disciples' lives. Verse 16 concludes that, as friends of Jesus, the disciples have access to virtually unlimited power. They have only to invoke Jesus' name, and God will respond. The phrase "in my name" denotes a prayer context, as well as suggesting that invoking Jesus' name makes manifest the very presence of Jesus himself. Today's text concludes by setting the stage for the reason why the world hates the disciples. Disciples of Jesus do, in fact, love one another. The power of Christ's love and friendship in no way negates the reality of this world's ability to hate.  That is why Jesus closes with a clear command that we must love one another, and even love those who hate us.
 
Life Messages

1: Let us cultivate an abiding and loving friendship with Jesus: The qualities we normally expect from our friends are trust, faithfulness, equality, forgiveness, joy and sacrifice.  Jesus offers us all these qualities in our friendship with him.  i) As a friend, Jesus has trusted us by sharing with us everything that he has heard from his Father.  Hence, we have to trust him as a friend by listening to him through the Bible and talking to him by prayer.  ii)  As our friend, Jesus will be always faithful to us. Let us return this fidelity by being faithful to him in doing His will. iii) By calling us his friends, Jesus makes us equal to him. Let us be proud of it and lead lives worthy of our unique status.  iv) As an understanding friend, Jesus is ready to forgive us time and time again.  Let us also forgive those who offend us. v) As a friend, Christ has told us everything so that our joy might be complete in him. Let us enjoy Jesus divine friendship. vi) Jesus declared that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend.  He has done it for us. Hence, let us also love others sacrificially.


2: Let us be persons for others: Jesus demonstrated the love God his Father has for us by living for us and dying for us. Hence, as his disciples, we are to be persons for others, sacrificing our time, talents and lives for others. This is what parents spontaneously do for their children by sacrificing themselves, their time, talents, health and wealth for them. That is, they spend themselves for their children. The most effective way of communicating God’s love to others is by treating everyone as a friend, giving each the respect he or she deserves as a human being, God’s creation. In moments of trial and stress, when people are hostile or ungrateful, and we feel the pull of bitter resentment in our hearts, it is important for us to remember that Christ’s own love was not limited to the people he liked. Hence, we should close our minds to thoughts of revenge.

Additional Anecdotes

1) Ter minal  hospit al”  in  Londo n  : There is a special hospital in London for those whom other hospitals consider a lost cause. It is a hospital for those who are diagnosed as "terminal." Most  people  would consider such a hospital to be a very sad place, but it is not. Actually, it is a hospital filled with hope and a lot of life. The emphasis in this London hospital is on life and not on death. The truth is that several of the patients have seen remissions in the disease process instead of death. A great deal of the credit is given to the way the facility is run. The basic philosophy is different from most other hospitals. In this program the patients are expected to give themselves away in service to the other  patients. Each patient is given another patient for whom to care. So, for example, a person who is unable to walk might be given the task of reading to another who is blind. The blind person would then push  the wheelchair of the one who could not walk but who gives directions on where to push the chair. Is this not the new commandment to which Jesus referred? He calls us to be disciples who love one another. We are the ones who are healed and strengthened when we learn how to give and how to love. [Bruce Larson, Passionate People (Dallas: Word Publishers), p. 203.]

2)  She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.” It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80′s arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. The medico took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him. Since he, himself, was not busy the medico took time to evaluate the man’s wound. The wound was well healed, and so he talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, the medico asked his patient if he had another doctor’s appointment as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman said that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. In answer to the medico’s question about her health, the old man responded that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. When the medico asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late, he replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now. The medico was surprised, and asked him why, if his wife didn’t know who he was, he went every morning faithfully for the breakfast. The old man smiled and said, She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.” The medico with tears in the eyes said to himself, “That is the kind of love I want in my life.” True love is neither physical, nor romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be.

3)  “M o m,  y o u'll  nev e r have to take in washing again.” Marion Anderson, perhaps the greatest contralto who ever lived had such a wonderful relationship with her mother. It was said of Mrs. Anderson's life: her music could bring one to tears; her life could bring one to his knees. She was once being interviewed and she was asked the most wonderful moment in her most impressive career. She could have mentioned that time when the great Arturo Toscanini told her that hers was the greatest voice of the century. She could have mentioned that time when she sang before the Roosevelts and the King and Queen of England. She could have said it was winning a coveted award for the person who had done the most for her hometown of Philadelphia. There was also the time when she sang before a crowd of 75,000 on Easter Sunday beneath the Lincoln statue. Which of these high moments would she chose? None of them. My greatest moment,” she said, “is when I went home to my mother and said: Mom, you'll  never have to take in washing again.’” If this relationship can exist between a mother and a  daughter,  then how much more can our relationship with Jesus Christ be? “I am the true vine,” he said. As the Father has loved me, so I love you.” And what happens when we abide in him and he abides in us? Our joy will be made full. Amen.

4)  Great lesson of the story of "Beauty and the Beast. " G. K. Chesterton once said that the really great lesson of the story of "Beauty and the Beast" is that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. A person must be loved before that person can be loveable. Some of the most unlovely people I have known got that way because they thought that nobody loved them. The fact of the matter is that unless and until we feel ourselves loved, we cannot love. That's not only a principle of theology but of psychology and sociology as well. Just as abused children grow up to abuse their children, loved children grow up to love their children. Loved persons are able to love. Unloved persons are not. Christianity says something startling. It says that God loves and accepts us "just as we are." Therefore, we can love and accept ourselves and in so doing, love and accept others. That is what Jesus commands us to do in todays gospel by challenging us to love others as he has loved us.

5) The Centurion Card:   A few years ago American Express quietly introduced its most exclusive new card. The Centurion Card is absolutely black, and is actually made out of titanium - the hardest known naturally occurring metal. In fact, when one of these titanium Centurion Card expires, the member has to send it back to American Express for recycling. The titanium can't be cut up or shredded. Besides, titanium is too valuable to be thrown away. Jesus introduces and invokes a whole new mindset, heartset, soulset into the universe. Jesus established The Titanium Rule. Anyone figure out what it is? Here's a hint: you find it in his understatement in this morning's text, “It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher." The Titanium Rule does not focus on "doing;" it focuses on "being" and on "loving." Jesus commands his followers, "Love one another as I have loved you."

6) Transformation of a   surgeon with Tourette's Syndrome: Some years back, neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a fascinating vignette of an intriguing neurological difficulty. As some of you know, Tourette's Syndrome is a bizarre mental disorder that causes victims to have any number of physical and verbal tics. Some Tourettic people have constant facial twitches, others find themselves uncontrollably uttering verbal whoops, beeps, and sometimes also raunchy swear words. One man with Tourette's whom Dr. Sacks knew was given to deep, lunging bows toward the ground, a few verbal shouts, and also an obsessive- compulsive type adjusting and readjusting of his glasses. The kicker is that the man is a skilled surgeon! Somehow and for some unknown reason, when he dons mask and gown and enters the operating room, all of his tics disappear for the duration of the surgery. He loses himself in that role and he does so totally. When the surgery is finished, he returns to his odd quirks of glasses adjustment, shouts, and bows. Sacks did not make any spiritual comments on this, of course, yet I find this doctor a very intriguing example of what it can mean to "lose yourself" in a role. There really can be a great transformation of your life when you are focused on just one thing focused to the point that bad traits disappear even as the performing of normal tasks becomes all the more meaningful and remarkable. Something like that is our Christian goal as we travel with Jesus. Our desire is to love one another to love the whole world finally, I suppose as Jesus loved us. To do that, we need an infusion of a kind of love that does not arise naturally from the context of the world as we know it. So as we lose ourselves in Jesus and in being his disciples, we find even our ordinary day-to-day activities infused with deep meaning as a love from another place fills our hearts.

7) "Yes, daddy, but I can't sit on its lap!" Some time ago, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times about Howard Maxwell and his four year old daughter, Melinda. As children often do, Melinda developed a fixation on the story of "The Three Little Pigs." Every time her father came around, Melinda wanted him to read it to her. Well, for adults, a little "Three Little Pigs" goes a long way. The father, being both modern and inventive, got a tape recorder, recorded the story, and taught Melinda how to turn it on. He thought that had solved his problem. But it lasted less than a day. Soon Melinda came to her father, holding out "The Three Little Pigs" and asking him to read. Somewhat impatiently, the father said, "Melinda, you have the tape recorder, and you know how to turn it on!" The little girl looked up at her father with her big eyes and said, plaintively, "Yes, daddy, but I can't sit on its lap!" Of course, what she really wanted was love. That is what we all want, and we never outgrow our need for it. To be valued, to be cared about, to be loved with a love without strings, a love that will always be there for us; I tell you, that is a foundation for our families that is strong enough to build upon!

8) “Hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death." French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935), tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other man, "Listen, Dominic, you've led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death." The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. Something wonderful happens to us when we are  baptized.  When  we are  baptized,  we identify ourselves with Jesus. We  publicly  declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God's will for our lives. When we are baptized, our lives are changed. We see things differently now. We see other people differently. Baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now. We are able to identify with Jesus because we have been baptized into His death and live with His Life. And we are able to love as he loved. Such identification is life-changing. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us.

9)   This  is  t he  happie st  day  o f  my  life.”  You have heard a bride say it. You have heard a new mother in the maternity ward say it. You have heard a graduating senior say it: This is the happiest day of my life. Some days are like that; they're special. There are great days in all of our lives. I wonder what was your most wondrous moment? For me such days are filled with extraordinary hope and joy. For me it was the birth of my daughter because it was shared with my wife and family. [state yours]. Life involves many happy affairs the birth of a child, the gatherings of Christmas, a summer vacation. It is often said that to love and be loved is the greatest happiness in the world. For most of us, then, the  most significant movement of hope and joy is our wedding day. It's the day we celebrate before God and all our friends the love in our life. Marriage vows are the most profound vows one can make. No  other  vows are more tender; no other vows are more sacred. No other pledge will so radically shape and claim an individual. The two become one. A home is born. A haven for family is founded. Your place to be is created. But, alas, in too many marriages and in so many lives the wine fails.

10) "God, I ain't got nothin' against nobody." Anthony Campolo tells about a mountaineer from West Virginia who fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the town preacher. The gruff and tough man one evening looked deeply into the eyes of the preacher's daughter and said, "I love you." It took more courage for him to say those simple words than he had ever had to muster for anything else he had ever done. Minutes passed in silence and then the preacher's daughter said, "I love you, too." The tough mountaineer said nothing except, "Good night." Then he went home, got ready for bed and prayed, "God, I ain't got nothin' against nobody." Many of us know that feeling. To love and to be loved, what joy that simple emotion brings into our lives! Then to realize that the very nature of God is love is almost more than you or I can comprehend. No wonder, Jesus greatest commandment for his followers is “Love one another as I have loved you.”

11) The greatest commandment revolutionizing prison:  During the Second World War Dr. Ernest Gordon, later Chaplain of Princeton University, was a prisoner of war in Thailand. In his book, Through the Valley of the Kwai, he reflects on the difference between two Christmas seasons he spent in prison. He says that during the Christmas season of 1942 there were thousands of American soldiers in that prison who robbed the sick among them, mistreated one another, and did not care whether the other prisoners lived or died. During the following year, a healthy American soldier began giving his food to a sick buddy to help him get well. In time the sick prisoner recovered, but the buddy who had given him food died of malnutrition. The story of the man who sacrificed his life to save a buddy made the rounds of the camp. Some of the prisoners remarked that he was a lot like Christ. Some of the soldiers began to recall passages from the Bible they had learned years earlier under far different circumstances. One of the passages stated, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Some who were Christians took heart and began to witness to other men. The prisoners began to ask about Christ and to meet for Bible study. When they began to know Christ as Lord the entire atmosphere in the camp changed from despair and desperation to hope and compassion. When Christmas of 1943 arrived, Dr. Gordon said, 2000 prisoners assembled for worship. They sang carols and someone read the story of the birth of Jesus from a Gospel account. Much more was different. In spite of their hunger, prisoners who were well shared food with the sick to help them gain strength faster. They cared for one another. They agreed that the difference came about because of faith in Christ and people who lived his love in the midst of unloving circumstances. The choices they made were for righteousness and not evil.

12) Dad couldn't remember which one of us was adapted." One time a Sunday school superintendent was registering two new sisters in Sunday School. When she asked them how old they were one replied, "We're both seven. My birthday is April 8th and my sister's is April 20th." That superintendent replied, "That's impossible girls." The other sister then spoke up and said, "No it's true, one of us is adopted." "Oh," the superintendent said. "Which one?" The two sisters looked at each other, and one said, "We asked Dad that question a while ago, but he just looked at us and said that he loved us both equally, so much so that he couldn't remember which one of us was adapted." (from God's Little Lessons on Life for Women, Honor Books). That is a wonderful analogy for the love of God. God loves us all, equally. We are loved, not because we have earned God's love or deserve it, but because of God's grace.

13) There is a beautiful old story about Zacchaeus, the tax collector. It tells how in later years, he rose early every morning and left his house. His wife, curious, followed him one morning. At the town well he filled a bucket, and he walked until he came to a sycamore tree. There, setting down the bucket, he began to clean away the stones, the branches, and the rubbish from around the base of the tree. Having done that, he poured water on the roots and stood there in silence, gently caressing the trunk with both of his hands. When his amazed wife came out of hiding and asked what he was doing, Zacchaeus replied simply, "This is where I found Christ." I can just imagine that for the rest of their lives, that woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe that day on the street and the daughter of Jairus who was raised up in that room in her home, continually brought people back to those sacred spots and said, "This is where I found Christ! This is where Christ loved me into life!" Do you have a sacred spot like that? This is the Good News of our Christian faith, isn't it? Love has the power to heal, to reconcile, and to redeem.

14)  “He is very fond of me.”  Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest, who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, saw an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying.  Impressed, the priest said to the man, "You must be very close to God."  The peasant looked up from his prayers, thought a moment, and then stated with a broad smile, “Yes, He's very fond of me."   Manning has a slogan to introduce himself to others: "I am the one Jesus loves."  He has borrowed this meaningful phrase from the gospel where Jesus closest friend on earth, the disciple named  John, is identified as "the one Jesus loved." Manning says, "If John were to be asked, 'What is your primary identity in life?' he would not reply, 'I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,' but rather, 'I am the one Jesus loves.'"   Today’s gospel and the second reading remind us that our primary identity in life as Christians should be "the one Jesus loves,” precisely because we keep his commandment, Love one another as I love you.”

15)   The Whisper Test: Mary Ann Bird wrote a short story entitled "The Whisper Test."  It is a true story from her own life.  "I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it.  I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I must look to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech.  "When schoolmates would ask, 'What happened to your lip?'  I'd tell them I'd fallen and cut it on a piece of glass.  Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different.  I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me. There was, however, a teacher in the second grade that we all adored -- Mrs. Leonard by name.  She was short, round, happy -- a sparkling lady.   Annually, we would have a hearing test.  I was virtually deaf in one of my ears.  But when I had taken the test in past years, I discovered that if I did not press my hand as tightly upon my ears as I was instructed to do, I could pass the test.  Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn.  I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something and we would have to repeat it back ... things like, 'The sky is blue' or 'Do you have new shoes?' I waited there for those words.  But God put into her mouth seven words which changed my life.  Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, 'I wish you were my little girl.'"

16)  …….  I love you:  An adult education teacher once gave his students an assignment to go to someone they loved before the following week's class and tell that person that they loved him or her.  They would then give their report at the next class.  It had to be someone to whom they had never said those words before, or at least not for a very long time.  At the next class, one man stood up and recounted his story to the  class.  "I  was  quite  angry  with  you  last  week  when  you  gave  us  this  assignment.    I  could  not understand how you dared to tell us to do something so personal.  But as I was driving home, my conscience started talking to me.  It was telling me that I knew exactly who I needed to say 'I love you' to. Five years ago, my father and I had a terrible argument which we had never resolved.  We have avoided seeing each other since, unless it was absolutely necessary, and even then we hardly spoke to each other. So last week by the time I had returned home after class, I had convinced myself to tell my father that I loved him.  It was strange, but just making the decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest.  When I told my wife, she jumped out of bed, gave me a big hug and for the first time in our married life, she saw me cry.  We sat up half of the night talking and drinking coffee. The next day I was up bright and early as if I had slept soundly all night.  I got to the office and accomplished more in a couple of hours than I had the whole day before.  At 9AM, I called my father to tell him I wanted to come over after work and talk to him.  He reluctantly agreed.  By 5:30, I was at the house.  When my father answered the door, I didn't waste any time.  I took one step inside and blurted out 'Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.'  Well, it was as if a transformation had come over him.  Before my eyes, his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear and he too began to cry. He reached out and hugged me, saying 'I love you too, son, but I've never been able to say it.'  My mother walked by just then with tears of joy in her eyes.  I didn't stay long, but I hadn't felt that great in a long time.  Two days after my visit, my dad, who had had heart problems but hadn't told us, had an attack and ended up unconscious in the hospital.  I still don't know if he'll make it. So my message to all of you in this class is: don't wait to do the things you know need to be done.  If I had waited, I might never have had another chance to do what I did." (Do It Now. Copyright 1995 by Dennis E. Mannering).  Todays Scripture teaches how we should love others. (L/ 12)




SYNOPSIS FOR EASTER SUNDAY VI (MAY 13, 2012) JN 15: 9-17

Introduction
Today’s scripture passages declare the profound truth that those who believe in Christ are to obey his commandment of love “Love others as I have loved you.” As we celebrate Mother’s Day in the U.S. let us remember with gratitude that it is generally our mothers who practice the agape love of Jesus

Scripture Lessons

In the first reading, Peter teaches us that God shows no partiality in His love and that there are no boundaries to abiding in love. God loves everyone, both the Jews and the Gentiles, and wants everyone to be saved through His son Jesus. That is why God welcomed the Roman centurion Cornelius as the first non-Jew to become a Christian.  The reading tells us how God also allowed the Gentiles who heard Peter’s speech to receive the same Holy Spirit and His gifts that Peter’s Jewish audience had received on the day of Pentecost. Today's psalm also directs our attention toward God's marvelous love and kindness in offering salvation to the whole world. In the second reading, John defines God as love and explains that He expressed His love for mankind by sending His son to die for us humans as expiation for our sins.” This divine love gives us the command as well as duty to love one another as we have been loved by God. Since God has loved us first, we can and should love God in return, love ourselves and love one another. After telling the parable of the vine and branches, Jesus, i n  t o day’ s  g o spel,  explains precisely  how  the disciples are to obey his commandment of love, just as he has obeyed his heavenly  Father’s  will by fulfilling His commandments and remaining inseparably bonded with his Father.   Jesus unconditional, forgiving,  selfless,  sacrificial  love  for  us  must  be  the  criterion  of  our  love  for  others.    The  highest expression of this love is our willingness to lay down our lives as Jesus did, for people who don’t deserve it. The goal and result of our abiding in love, in God, will be perfect joy. Jesus calls us friends. He tells us that he has chosen us, and that, if we use his name, we can ask the Father for anything

 Life Messages

1: We need to cultivate an abiding and loving friendship with Jesus and to express it in our relationship with others by loving them and showing them trust, faithfulness, equality, forgiveness, joy and sacrifice.

#2: We need to be persons for others: Jesus demonstrated the love of God, his Father, for us by living for us and dying for us. Hence, as his disciples, we are to be persons for others, sacrificing our time, talents and lives for others. This is what parents spontaneously do, sacrificing themselves, their time, talents, health and wealth for their children, or in other words, by spending themselves for their children. The most effective way of communicating God’s love to others is by treating everyone as a friend, giving him or her the respect he or she deserves. Let us remember that Christ’s own love was not limited to the people he liked and, hence, that we should close our minds to thoughts of revenge. L/12