Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 13:31-33a, 34-35
The Easter Alleluia still echoes in our hearts and then—when we least expect it—the Gospel brings us back to the Last Supper and the words Jesus used to put the message of his life into words. How do you sum up three years of preaching? What do you say to prepare people for your death? If the evangelist had been forced to confine this Gospel scene to only a few words, I suspect these are the ones he would have used: “And Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” These are the words that are meant to define the future of the Church.
The words “as I have loved you” define the task. Just how much Christ loves us presents a daunting challenge. He loves us enough to die a terrible death for us.
When we prepare little children to receive the Holy Eucharist, we tell them that “Amen” means “I believe.” The continued repetition of the Eucharistic Prayer and the recounting of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection bring us to a richer understanding of what it means to say that we believe. Our faith is defined by the love that Christ has for us and our willingness to love one another. We want our Amen to mean that we are willing to pour ourselves out for others as Christ has been poured out for us.
Apologetics begins with love. Evangelization begins with love. The story is told that love was the hallmark of the early Christian community. “See how they love one another,” non-believers said. Quite honestly, it has to be said that it is not difficult to love those whose values you share. What about the others?
Some of my friends expressed surprise that Pope Francis devoted a homily to a discussion about gossip. He said, “… we too are the people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others.” Quite simply, gossip destroys love.
Love costs. The price of Jesus' love was blood, sweat, tears, pain, and then death. Few of us will pay that price. We will suffer and we will ache; but, most of us will say that love is worth the cost.
The early Christian community knew the cost. Paul and Barnabas reminded the community, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” The Gospel they preached was a continual reminder of what God has done for the community and what God expects of us. This is the message they preached. It is the message we still proclaim today.