• Acts 14:21-27 • Revelation 21:1-5a • John 13:31-33a, 34-35 • 5 Easter C ’13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 04.28.2013
Scripture Readings: Fifth Sunday of Easter
“I give you a new commandment: love one another.” For more than a half century I have tried to find ways to help myself and others hear and appreciate the implications of this commandment. It never is easy for me to do. I find that what I say often is not easy for others to accept. The reason is simple. The Greek word used by John’s Jesus is “agape” – “unconditional love.” Following the Risen One means “agape/love.”
Christ is risen! (Truly, he is risen!) Today we again hear and are confronted by the implications of this “new commandment.” John situates it within the supper Jesus shared with his companions in those final hours shortly before his death. He “will be with them only a little longer.”
When we love others as he loves us, we discover the Risen One has given us a gift, filled with gifts. “Agape/love” deepens and expands us. We experience his presence with us, even in his absence. We become more fully alive and more fully human. We become more satisfied with self. “If you love one another, all people will know you are my disciples.” In other words, Other folks know the Risen One in and through our “love.”
Doctrine has value, but accepting doctrine does not make one “Christian.” Liturgical ritual has value, but does not make one “Christian.” Religious disciplines or practices have value, but do not make one “Christian.” It is “love” — and only “love” that validates the claim of a community or individual to be “Christian
Christ is risen! (Truly, he is risen!) The Risen One who speaks this “new commandment” is both model and mentor of what he means.
How did he love? Check out the gospels. His love was neither emotional nor sentimental, nor limited to his family and friends. He was determined, took risks, and did what was required to free people of whatever dehumanizes them or makes them suffer. His “love” enabled people.
He challenged traditions and broke rules – like when he cured on the Sabbath or spoke to the Samaritan woman. He told stories that upset popular notions of what God is like. He cast out demons. He ate with, reached out to, and touched people, even “aliens” or those considered “unclean.” When he encountered folks burdened with sorrow, he grieved with them. His love enabled them to be more fully alive and human.
Christ is risen! (Truly, he is risen!) I want to share two stories with you.
Recently a woman asked me to spend some time with her. I did so. Her education has transformed her and now her cousins claim they “see no signs of God in her life.” During our conversation she explained how her first child was born of “in vitro fertilization” Then she adopted her second child from an Asian country, and adopted her third child, a girl with a severe hearing impediment, from a country in the Balkans. Her life as a single mom has been devoted to raising them, while working a full time job and completing her doctorate from the University. WOW!
Last December the world was shocked by the deaths of so many innocent children and their teachers in Newtown, Conn. CNN included a brief but compelling story in its reporting. CNN reported that a father of one of the young victims offered condolences to the shooter’s family. WOW!
“Love one another.” I think these people, whether or not they claim the name, are “Christian” — for they are imitating and living in Christ. They, like us, form that community of men and women who love as Jesus loved – without condition. Persist in your determination to be a man/woman of “agape/love.” “Agape/love”” deepens and expands us. “Agape/love” makes us more fully alive and more fully human. That is what it means to be Christian!