A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for 6th Sunday of Easter (Year B).
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 – 1John 4:7-10 – John 15:9-17.
Let me tell you a story about a baby, less than a month old, who was found dumped at a refuse tip. The emergency services responded immediately with a blue light run to the scene. As soon as they arrived, one of the paramedics did her utmost to resuscitate the baby, who was hardly more than a bag of bones. She herself was the mother of three children, and she was horrified by his condition. There was every indication that he was an abandoned baby. She went with him in the ambulance to hospital. Later, when the decision was being made by the authorities on where best to place him, the same paramedic (whose name was Miriam) felt such a strong connection with the baby that she submitted a formal request to be allowed to foster him. Her request was granted. In due course, she adopted the little boy, named him ‘Chuck’ and raised him as her own. Anyone seeing Chuck growing up with her own children wouldn’t know that they came from different families. All four children thrived on knowing how deeply they were loved, and furthermore they loved each other, and they loved themselves. Never was there any mention of their different backgrounds. Chuck grew up in the loving experience of his adoptive home. After having been abandoned as worthless trash by his biological mother, he was given a fresh start by being born again into this family through their love. It was love that proved to be stronger than biological attachment.
This story of Chuck, his siblings, and his mother Miriam, is appropriate and helpful because this Sunday’s readings focus on the theme of love. Jesus gave us the commandment to love one another as I have loved you (v.12). God is love, and those who live in God have to live in love for each other (cf. 1Jn 4:16). All those who love are begotten by God (v.7). They are children of God (1Jn 3:2). The love of God makes no exceptions (Rom 2:11). He loves us all equally because we are all His children. Even while we are mired in sin, He continues to pour out His love upon us. The Bible assures us that He loves us so much that while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8) Christ died for us. God … gave His only Son so that WHOEVER BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16). What all that means is that God doesn’t only love those who have experienced His love and are reciprocating it. Of course He loves those whom Jesus called His ‘friends’ in the gospel (v.14), but His love isn’t reserved exclusively for those already committed to Him. His love extends to everyone without exception, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to know and accept Him as their Lord and God, to receive His loving mercy, and to be saved. In the 1st reading (v.34f), Peter declared: Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
The most important thing Jesus asks of us is to love one another as he has loved us (v.12, cf. Mt 22:36ff). He wants us to share love with others as we have received love from Him… unconditionally! Showing love for those we can see reveals our confidence in being loved by God whom we cannot see. An example of this was the practical, comprehensive and inclusive love shown by Miriam (the paramedic in my little story) to her biological children and to Chuck. To live in Christ’s love, we have to root out all forms of selfishness, and determine to consider others’ needs over and above our own. We have to put other people first. When we don’t share, when we erect an invisible wall to keep people out or at least at a distance, we condemn ourselves to a winter of loneliness.
Dear friends, we are called to be considerate to others, to make sacrifices for them in accordance with the example Jesus gave us. Love embodies a form of self-sacrifice which demands that we give, not just of the material things we possess, but of ourselves, our time and our talents. For example, parents bear witness to Christ in their everyday lives by labouring tirelessly to feed their families, by nursing their children when they’re ill, and counselling them when they are confused. Facing up to these parental commitments is hard and costly, involving a long uphill struggle peppered with falls and backsliding; but in fulfilling them, they are guaranteed to find God. Wherever there is love, God is present (Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est). We can translate this love within the family bubble to everyone we meet by being friendly and courteous.
God’s love for us is so vast that it is beyond human understanding. Each of us is loved individually and intimately in the sense of being closer to us than we are ourselves: As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you (v.9). We do not deserve God’s love, and it is impossible to earn it by our own efforts. It is God the Father’s love for us that led Him to send His only-begotten Son into the world to take away our sins and reconcile us to Him. So, when we are under stress, when people are hostile to us, or when we feel the pull of resentment towards someone, remember that Christ’s love has never been limited to “nice” people. Grow in His love, be ready to lay yourself down for others in practical service, and thereby let your love be total, so that your joy in this life may be complete (v.11). Amen God bless you.