To read the texts click on the texts: Acts10:25-26, 34-35,44-48;; 1 Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17
A man went to his pastor to say that he felt there was a lack of friendliness among the parishioners and that people were reluctant to greet one another in church. The pastor agreed with him and said that he had devised a plan to change things. During services the next Sunday, the pastor described the situation to the parishioners and said that the following Sunday they would have a brief pause to allow parishioners to turn to those seated near them and greet them with a friendly hello. After the announcement, the man turned around to the woman behind him and said, “Good morning.” She looked at him in shocked indignation and snapped, “That doesn’t start until next Sunday!”
The American author and poet, Stephen Vincent Benet, who won the Pulitzer Prize twice, wrote, “Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small, uncaring ways”. The penultimate verse of the Gospel text of today, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last:, serves as an antidote to this way of living and ensures that one will continue to live even after death.
The disciples can be fruitful primarily because the love which the Father has for Jesus is the same love that Jesus has shown for his disciples. It is a love that is unconditional, a love that is totally caring, a love that places the other before self and, a love without end. It is a love that is shown tangibly and in every action that Jesus performs. There is only one commandment that Jesus gives his disciples. That is the commandment of love. If the disciples keep this commandment, they will resemble Jesus, their master, who revealed God’s love for the world tangibly, in the most perfect of ways, by willingly dying.
The disciples are indeed friends of Jesus, as has been manifested in their keeping his command to love. Jesus is not placing a condition for friendship here (you can be my friends only if…); rather, he is stating who the disciples are (because you are my friends, you do what I command). Keeping the commandment of Jesus is not a chore or burden but something done willingly because one has experienced his love first. The outcome of this sharing of love is unbounded joy.
As Jesus treats his disciples as his friends, he reveals to them all that they need to know. His primary revelation to them has been of God as a loving and compassionate Father. It is Jesus who has taken the initiative in calling and choosing the disciples and this fact reinforces the idea of grace. It is not one’s effort that can earn discipleship but the grace of God which enables one to live out daily the call to discipleship. Jesus’ self-emptying love points back to the self-emptying love expected of us. We are to love one another in the way he loved us.
However, this kind of self-emptying love does not always come easily, as today’s first reading from Acts demonstrates. Initially, Peter was reluctant to have anything to do with Cornelius because he was a Roman centurion. However, he soon learned that, because God does not hold back from anyone his self-emptying and unconditional love. When genuine love was present, all distinctions of caste, creed, colour, and race disappeared, John reiterates this point in the second reading of today and goes even further. He states very clearly that it was not we who first loved, but God. God took the initiative and sent a part of himself, his son. It is in Jesus, the Son that love has its origin and finds its fulfillment.
Love is not just an emotion – but reality. As a matter of fact, the only reality is love. Fear, which is regarded as the opposite of love, is not real, it is only an illusion. If there is fear, there cannot be love, and where there is love, there is no fear (1 Jn 4:18). While Paul gives a beautiful definition of love in 1 Cor 13:1-9, my own definition of love is, I believe, simple, but not simplistic. “In love, there is no ‘I’”.
As love keeps giving, Jesus continues to give, even today. However, the giving is only one side of the story. Without a receiver, the gift has no value. This is why, while the grace of God given as a gift in Jesus is first, our reception of that gift is important. We show that we have received this gift when we, like Jesus, also dare to reach out in love. When we speak a comforting word, perform a loving action, behave less selfishly and more selflessly, then the gift is given and received, again and again.