Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 9, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

The readings that the Church offers us in today’s liturgy involve call and command, transparency and friendship, love and sacrifice. Our second reading is a passage from the first Epistle of John that encourages us to love one another because that unites us with God. He goes on to tell us that love consists not in any activity on our part, but in the fact that God first loves us. This love consists in the gift of His Son who brings us forgiveness of our sins. God is the primary agent in love, and we are the recipients. Jesus says, “it was not you who chose Me but I who chose you and appointed you.”

In the Gospel today, Jesus calls us to live in that love. During His instructions to the Apostles at the Last Supper, Jesus teaches how His love reflects that of the Father, and how we must continue to live in and make concrete that love. The authentic sign of this love is giving up one’s life for one’s friends. We understand what a friend is by contrasting it with a slave. The difference is not in obedience since friends listen to and follow the wishes of their friends as slaves do of their masters. But slaves do not know their masters’ intentions, motivations, or character, while friends know and understand their friends. “Slaves” would be bought and valued only by what they did or by how much they produced. “Friends” are chosen and valued for their being. Jesus hides nothing from His friends. His clarity of friendship can confuse us especially when we are steeped in the shadows of selfishness and sin.

Jesus made Himself known to His disciples through His companionship, miracles, parables, teachings, and conversation, and He chose and designated them to continue this work.  Jesus’ command to love is not a law to be thoughtlessly but compliantly observed, rather it’s an invitation to put our lives on the line for Him and in service of one another. The love that Jesus reveals may sound simple, but it is terribly hard. To love as Jesus loves always requires sacrifice. Love must cost us.

It is not the narcissism and self-indulgence that passes for “love” in our world. Nor is it the emotions of affection and attraction associated with falling in love. According to Saint Paul, it is patience and kindness that is never jealous, conceited, or resentful. It is truthful, trusting, forgiving, encouraging, and permanent. And its greatest expression is found in Christ’s Passion, in laying down one’s life for one’s friends. This love is not won, rarely discovered, and never earned, but it involves call and command, offering and reception, clarity and purpose, service and sacrifice.

Jesus commands us, His friends to trust Him as a friend and to enter the mystery of His love, and to accept the difficult and thankless task of making this love a reality in the lives of others. Why He loves us and chose us is equally a mystery. We will never fully understand the mystery of God’s love in our lives before we experience the fullness of eternal life, but we do not need to analyze His love. We are called to pray and to accept it gratefully and willingly return it to Him through other persons every day.

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