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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Reflection/Homily: Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C

Theme: Putting on a Behaviour of love

There was this story we were told at the minor seminary some years ago. Three priests went to visit a sick male member of their parish in the hospital. After their visit, the little daughter was describing the priests to the mum. She told the mum that a priest, a gentleman and a “guy man” visited. She described the priest in Soutane as a priest, the one in clerical suit as a gentleman and the one in a good pair of jeans with a nice T-shirt with canvas to match as a “guy man”.

This little girl only gave a description of images she was popular with. Thus, she implemented an old rule which says: “You are addressed the way you dress”. This old rule is what Jesus is emphasizing in the gospel reading (John 13:31-33.34-35) but in a different dimension. Though we may be described and judged by our code of dressing, our code of conduct speaks more about us. In other words, it is our behaviour that defines us the more.

That is why in order to let the world identify and define his disciples, Jesus gave them a new commandment, a new code of conduct or we may say, he prescribed a new behaviour for them. This new behaviour would be for them, an identity card which they will not need to put on on request but which will be evident everywhere they go and in everything they do. This new commandment is nothing but love for one another just as God loved us.

What could be the basis of this love? In what sense could this love be new? When we consider the old commandment of loving only those who love us, we come to understand the basis of this love and how new it is to the Jews and even to us. Naturally, we are more inclined to receive and reciprocate love than to offer love. More still, there is always the tendency to love only those who have acquired the credentials to be qualified for our love. Such could be our family members and friends.

So the basis of this new commandment Jesus is giving us today is a love for one another that transcends the boundaries of family-hood, race, nationality, colour, sex, age and all those things that separate us from each other. It is a love that is selfless and sacrificial. It is new in the sense that though not common, Jesus is not offering it as a suggestion but as a commandment. It therefore becomes an imperative for every Christian.

Jesus knew that his Church would grow beyond the boundaries of the Jews and would bring together people of diverse languages, cultures and interests. This diversity could pose a challenge to the growth of the Church and to the continuation of his ministry. So he needed something to unite his followers even in their diversity. Nothing could unite them more that an unadulterated love for each other. This one will enable them collaborate with each other for the good of the Church.

In the first reading (Acts 14:21-27), we see this love alive in Paul and Barnabas who collaborated in their work of evangelization. Because of this love which radiated from them, they were able to make much converts and this love remained even among the believers that they did everything in common and lived in peace.  The disciples however encouraged them to be steadfast in their love for one another and for God especially in the face of trials and tribulations which will certainly come.

But we observe that in our world today, our love for God and for one another is threatened by our individual differences, the difficulties and disappointments we encounter in life. How do we relate with people who do not share the same faith with us or with people who are not in the same association/organization with us? True and sincere love wounds. It wounds our pride and makes us humble, it wounds our selfishness and makes us selfless, it wounds our emotions when the love is betrayed and it wounds our comfort when we have to make sacrifices. Are we ready to make sacrifices to prove our authentic love and faith? Our faith here on earth is on trial and only when we overcome these temptations can we truly be happy and fulfilled.

In the second reading (Rev. 21:1-5) we see this type of happiness and fulfillment in the lives of the righteous whose tears had been wiped and pain removed. They are now enjoying the vision of God whom they have loved in their neighbours. They are now citizens of the holy city, a New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. If we desire to be like them, then we should put on a behaviour of love which will strengthen our faith in God and qualify us for heaven. God loves you.

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