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Sixth Sunday – Year B – Easter
Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17.
Reading 1 (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48):
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him
and, falling at his feet, paid him homage.
Peter, however, raised him up, saying,
“Get up. I myself am also a human being.”
Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.”
While Peter was still speaking these things,
the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.
The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter
were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit
should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,
for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.
Then Peter responded,
“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”
He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Reading 2 (1Jn 4:7-10):
Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
Gospel (Jn 15:9-17):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father”s commandments
and remain in his love.”
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God is love.
We never see God. It is even more abstract if we talk about the love of Him we never see. But we are fortunate because God chooses to express His love for people through His creation, providence, redemption and sanctification.
The Church uses today readings to show God’s immense love for people through His works. In the first reading, God showed His love for Cornelius, the Roman officer, through giving him an opportunity to enter the Church. In the second reading, after St. John defined “God is love,” and showed his readers the expression of God’s love through giving us His Only Beloved Son. In the Gospel, God’s love is extending to the apostles through Jesus. Before Jesus’ apostles can love others, they must remain in and be permeated by this love.
1/ Reading I: God bestows grace on people before they can respond to His love.
1.1/ God isn’t partial but loves everyone: Cornelius was a Roman officer. Although he was a Gentile; but he feared God, often prayed, and did good things for people (Acts 10:2). Because of these habits, he had a vision in which God’s messenger commanded him to go and to invite Simon Peter to his house.
The fact that Peter must come to a Gentile’s house is abnormal; but Peter must do it because the Holy Spirit commanded him (Acts 10:20). When Peter recognized God’s arrangement for Cornelius, he clearly declared: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” This shouldn’t be a surprise because God creates all things and gives grace to all people. Whoever recognizes His grace and lives righteously, He continues to bless and gives him an opportunity to understand His love and teachings.
1.2/ God bestowed His Holy Spirit on all members of Cornelius’ household: When Peter was still speaking, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.” They were astounded because they think that only those who received Baptism could have the Holy Spirit. They don’t know that God doesn’t depend on human tradition or belief. He gives His Holy Spirit to those who fear Him and live according to His way.
Peter remembered the Pentecost during which all Jesus’ disciples were bestowed the Holy Spirit as the tongues of fire descended upon their head (Acts 2:3-10). Then, Peter declared: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
2/ Reading II: God loves us before we recognize and return our love for Him.
2.1/ God is love: There are many different definitions of love; but St. John’s definition is the best and simple, as he defined: “God is love.” St. Thomas Aquinas said “true love is the friendship, which one wishes the best for his friend.” Because of His love for people, God does everything for them through creation, providence, redemption, sanctification and preparing a glorious and happy future for human beings.
Love is the most important character in human beings because God creates people according to His image and likeness (Gen 1:26). The more people love God and others, the more they resemble God. St. John described the relationship between God’s and our love: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” St. John made a connection between knowledge and love, between the intellect and the will, between God’s and human love in one sentence. Our love for God is measured by our love for others; there is a close connection between faith and love and a harmony between human intellect and will. Therefore, when one loves God and others, he can confidently say that he knows God and is born by God.
The reverse is also true, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” God creates people with love; whoever refuses to love, can’t belong to God. In Johannine Writings, there are only two main forces in this world: either God or the devil who always opposes God. Whoever refuses to love, belongs to the devil. He is the father of liars and of hatred. This is the reason why John called the one who says that he loves God and hates his brother is a liar. In Matthew, the standard which God shall use to judge people on the Last Day is the commandment of love (cf. Mt 25).
2.2/ The way God expresses His love: Even though John’s definition of love is excellent, but it is purely abstract; he must find a way to concretely express God’s love. He found the way to express God’s love in his gospel, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). In today passage, he expressed the same in different words, “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” The way which God expressed His love is concrete and has power to move people’s mind and heart. Everytime, when people look up to the cross, they must feel God’s love for them, even though they never see Him. John also tied up love and life: If people love, they shall have life both in this world and the next; If they don’t, they shall end up in hatred and death.
Finally, John emphasized the order of love: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” God loves people when they are still sinners; He doesn’t wait for people to become good or lovable, and then He shall love them. If God does so, people shall have no chance because without God’s grace, people shall die in their sins. People can only love God after He showed His love for them. They can express their love by preaching about God’s love and their love for others.
3/ Gospel: God chose and sent us to preach about His love for all.
3.1/ The commandment of love:
(1) The origin of love: As in his above Letter, John confirmed that love (agape) originates in God, comes through the Son to his disciples. Jesus revealed this truth: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” The disciples must remain in Jesus’ love before they can love others with this kind of love. After remaining in this love, Jesus commanded them in verse 12, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” This also means if one doesn’t remain in God’s love, he can’t love others with God’s love. He can’t reach the level of perfection as Jesus demanded them, such as: to love one’s enemies, to love until death and to forgive all others’ sins.
(2) To keep Christ’s commandment is to remain in God’s love: Jesus teaches his disciples: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” Love isn’t merely in thought, but must be expressed in deed. The sign which helps people to know with certainty that they love God is to keep His commandments. For example, Jesus knows that he loves God because he always does his Father’s will. Jesus not only taught but also exemplified for his disciples. He doesn’t ask his disciples to do anything that he can’t do: he obeyed his Father in everything even he must accept death; he sacrificed his life to show his true love for the Father and people and he forgave his persecutors on the cross. Jesus encourages his disciples so that they shall have courage to follow him; if he can do these things, the disciples can do the same.
To keep God’s commandments and to remain in His love aren’t a burden but a secret to have a complete joy as Jesus revealed: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” Jesus knew that if his disciples don’t keep his commandments, they can never reach their final destiny and therefore he shall not be unified with them. The only way they can reach their final destiny and have fully joy with Jesus is to keep his commandments.
3.2/ Jesus chose and called his disciples: Like two first readings, God and Jesus are always the initiators. He chose and called his twelve apostles, not one of them volunteered to follow him. In his public mission, many vonlunteered to follow him but he didn’t let them. In priestly and consecrated vocations, people can’t be volunteered to become priests or religious brothers and sisters, but they must be invited and chosen by God’s representatives.
(1) Jesus invited his disciples to be his friends: According to human way, love requires a proportion between the lover and the loved. In this way, people can never be God’s friends because there exists an infinite distance between God and human beings; people are only worthy to be His servants. But there is an unthinkable exchange in the mystery of Incarnation: Jesus, though he himself is God, humbly incarnated in a human body to love, to redeem and to raise people up as God’s friends. Jesus revealed this mystery, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”
Jesus chose his disciples not only his friends but also closed friends. People used to sacrifice their life for the closed friends. Jesus is the people’s closed friend because he sacrificed his life for people so that they don’t have to die, as he acclaimed, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus wanted to have not only a few but also all to become his closed friends. This requires only one condition: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” When we sacrifice our life for others, we become God’s friends.
(2) Jesus trained and sent them out: God’s love isn’t confined to same people or a nation, but is extended to all people. Jesus chose the Twelve, trained and sent them out to preach about God’s love, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”
Continuing Christ’s mission, the apostles also chose and called their disciples to love, to train and to send them out so they can continue their mission. This mission is still continuing by the Church and only ended at the Last Day.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God is the initiator in love; we are only recognized and responded to His love.
– Love is the base of all God’s works and should be the principle of all our works. Love originates from God and extends to us through Christ. We must remain in this love before we can love others with God’s love.
– To recognize God’s love, we must keep Jesus’ commandments and sacrifice our life for others as Jesus kept the Father’s commandments and sacrificed his life for people.