Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 98; 1John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17
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Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)
LOVING JUST LIKE THAT
Last Sunday, the readings emphasized the need to keep the Word of God in order to maintain a productive relationship with Jesus. We were also led to the understanding that the Word which Jesus has spoken to us is what cleanses and prunes us for a more productive Christian life, just as the branches of the vine need pruning in order to continue bearing fruit. Today, we are led to the heart of that Word or teaching of Jesus, namely, the commandment to love one another, as the Father loved the Son and as the Son has loved us.
In the Gospel Reading (John 15:9-17), love is presented as the patrimony which Jesus inherits from the Father and hands over to us as his own children. As we read, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (v.9). Thus, love becomes the thread linking the Father who begot the Son and those whom the Son begets.
Jesus clearly and decisively commands us to love and tells how to love: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (v.12); “I am giving you these commands, that you may love one another” (v.17).
Jesus does not only command us to love but to love “as I have loved you” (v. 12b). And how has he loved us? Unconditionally and sacrificially, choosing us to be his friends worth dying for, not because we chose him too, but just like that. As we read, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (v.14); “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father. You did not choose me but I chose you” (vv.15-16a).
In the 2nd Reading (from 1 John 4:7-10), we are presented with compelling arguments on the need to love one another. The author first makes the point in v.7a: “agapētoí, agapômen àllḗlous”, i.e., “Beloved, let us love one another”. He then goes on to offer three arguments and an example for the necessity to show love to one another.
First, “because love is from God” (v.7b). Secondly, because everyone who loves is from God and knows God. That is, love is the birthmark of those who come from God. If you love, you must be from God and if you are from God, then you know him. The third argument is a negative reformulation of the second: “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (v.8). In other words, if we do not love, then we do not come from God, and if we do not come from God, then we do not know him. As we read also in John 6:46, “no one has seen the Father except the one who comes from God.”
The author backs up this argument with an example of God’s love revealed to us by sending his only Son into the world that we might live through him, emphasizing that we did not love him first, but that God loved us just like that, by sending his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. In other words, should we want to ask, how do we love and who deserves our love? The answer is, we are to love just like that, not that the one we ought to love has loved us first.
If we are from God, we would know that God is love, and that he loves by sacrificing, giving up what is to him most dear, his only Son, in order to advance the wellbeing and salvation of those whom he loves, not because they loved him first, but just like that.
In the 1st Reading (Acts 10:25-35.44-48), having been challenged in vision to extend love beyond his Jewish circle (see Acts 10:9-16), Peter tries to spread this new understanding among his fellow believers, explaining to them God’s boundless and unconditional love as the exemplar for the kind of love that should be found among believers, not love with ifs, but love just like that.
Peter, having himself learned about this new kind of love, taught the assembly of believers: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who reveres him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (v.34). As he spoke, the Holy Spirit confirmed the authenticity of this new understanding of love by coming down upon all present, including Gentiles (see vv.44-48) who had no prior preparation, but just like that.
God’s impartiality is also invoked in the Old Testament to promote care for the foreigner and stranger in Israel. In Deut 10:17-19, we read: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favour and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Today’s readings invite us, therefore, to this new understanding and new logic of love. Loving just like that is the way to God which Jesus and the apostles have shown us that we might follow, loving just like that is the truth about God which they have taught us to know, and loving just like that is the life in God which they lived and recommend that we also live.
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Understanding God’s love
The readings of today present us with the basic theme of Love. In the second reading St John tells us that God is love and that he revealed his love by sending his Son into the world for us. This love was captured in John 3:16. The theme of love continues in the gospel where Christ tells us to remain in his love. We do this by keeping the commandments. Love is considered to be both positive and negative. Positive love represents human kindness, compassion, and affection. It is the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another. Negative love is a vice. It represents human moral flaws, vanities, selfishness, lust, and the likes. The positive love is best captioned as Agape love.
Agape is a Greco-Christian term referring to unconditional love, “the highest form of love, charity” and “the love of God for man and of man for God”. This love is a mandate. Jesus says in John 15:17 This is my commandment that you love one another. Beloved, this is a mandate in as much as you are a Christian. It does not depend on your disposition. Christianity is the business of love. If we cannot love; we are not Christians. Agape love is expressed in five different dimensions in the readings of today.
Love is Sacrificial: Jesus says in the gospel (John15:13) “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The love that pays the highest price is sacrificial. The second reading tells us how God manifested this love by sacrificing his only begotten son. Beloved, true love is sacrificial not artificial. Anyone who loves without sacrifice is not wise and is not worthy of the eternal prize. Artificial love is fake love. Love that is not ready to endure; love that strives when all is glowing then when there is trial it disappears. Sacrificial love does not end; artificial love ends. Artificial love is the most trending love out there. It plays with people’s emotion, hearts, time and energy. If we are true followers of Christ we must be different.
Love is obedient: Jesus says in the gospel (John15:14) “You are my friends if you do what I command.” Before now, we were his servants – love moves us into deeper relationship. From servants to friends. In John 14:15 Jesus says If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. Love is a summon to obedience. We cannot claim to God and be disobedient and so, 1John 4:20 puts is clearly, that whoever claims he loves God and hate his brother is a lair. Are you claiming you love God yet you are not a submissive wife? Or are you claiming to love God yet you don’t love your wife? Do you claim to be holy yet disobey your parents? Love is obedient.
Love is Boundless: In the first reading, Peter made the people to realize that the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all people whether Jews or gentiles, believers or pagans. For Peter God’s message is for all people regardless of their nationality or race or skin colour. Beloved, this is boundless love. Christian love is a boundless love. We must be able to love those who are not our colour, tribe or nation. Today, boundless love is a risk especially in the face of deadly groups; but we must not forget that it is also a sacrifice. Sacrifices are for spiritually matured minds not babies. Again, this country suffers decay because people are not judged on the basis of competence and credibility rather they are judged by blood tie and ethnicity. God’s love is boundless; true Christians must give expression to boundless love.
Love is Fruitful: Jesus says in the gospel (John 15:16) “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” We are redeemed in order for us to produce. Redemption is not reduction. God wants us to be fruitful. Thus, he chose us so that we might bear fruits – fruits that will last. Beloved, without love we cannot be fruitful. In fact, you cannot raise a family without love – if you risk it you will raise terrorist. Research has shown that most violent men are women are product of violent families. Those who never knew love while they were growing up; in some cases they turn out to be terrorists not just to their immediate environment but to the larger society. World terrorists were born into families. They did not germinate in the bush like grass. Therefore, Christians must ensure that the seed of love is planted in their homes and cross pollinated to others. Beloved, if we must be fruitful we must love. No evangelization can take place without love.
Love produces great joy: “Joy” is a prominent theme in today’s gospel. Jesus himself says he has told us to remain in his love so that his joy will be in us and our joy may be complete. Beloved, where there is not love there is no joy. Haters are usually not happy people. It is possible to have incomplete joy; which is almost like fake laughter – you are laughing but not wholeheartedly. Lovely, people are naturally joyful people. If you are not happy; check your love life.
God bless you and keep you all in his peace.
Fr. Paul Oredipe
LOVE is the Foundation of Christianity – Catholicity of Divine Love
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
“Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love.”
LOVE clearly stands out in today’s readings. What more important theme is there for our restless human hearts ?
Thank God, in today’s gospel, Jesus tells us what it is that we so often take for granted. In the gospel passage that we have just heard, the word “love” is mentioned NINE times.
Jesus is telling us that love is crucial and critical in our lives, and even more so for our survival. And yet we so often take it for granted. Jesus even puts it as a commandment for us: Love one another as I have loved you.
So to love God and to love others is not a suggestion, nor is it an option. And in Jesus, we can see that there is no greater love because He laid down His life on the cross in order to save us, and to show us the meaning of love.
Today’s readings invite us to recognize and believe that the Paschal Mystery, which is the centre of our Easter celebration, is an expression of God’s love for us, and an invitation to enter into the love of Jesus and His Father, and to give it expression in our own lives. True love expresses itself in action rather than in words. The Father’s love, John’s letter tells us, was expressed in our midst when He ‘sent into the world his only Son, so that we could have life in him’. The words of Jesus in John’s gospel remind us how complete is the gift which He brings, as an expression of the love which He shares with the Father: ‘A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friend’.
Now, in real life, love is not static or inert. Love is power. Love empowers. Love energises the one loved. Love is creative (the only truly creative power there is). Love gives life. Love makes a difference, it makes an impact.
The God who is love, who loves Jesus, transforms Jesus into love and empowers Jesus, in His turn, to love others. As today’s Gospel put it: As the Father loved me, so I have loved you. So, it all starts with God. It is creative, positive and redemptive. With love, things, persons and situations can no longer be the same.
We come to see that loving defines who we truly are. We are truly ourselves only when we choose to love; we are truly human only when we choose to love.
He said we are friends of His – friends whom He trusts so much that He has shared with us what is most precious to Him: He has told us everything He has learnt from His Father, that is, the non-negotiability of loving.
The Lord called us friends. He made us His friends. He gives us His friendship. Jesus defined friendship in two ways. There are no secrets between friends. Christ tells us everything He hears from the Father; He gives us His full confidence and, with confidence, also knowledge. He reveals His face to us, His heart. He shows His tenderness for us, His passionate love that goes to the folly of the cross.
How do we understand the tremendous gift of friendship in our lives ?
Jesus wants us to love so that we can be truly human, so that we can come alive. In fact, He said that His reason for sharing all this with us is so that His joy may be in us and our joy be complete. Let us never forget what Jesus has done for all of us. He has laid down His life for all of us. Let that be our motivation for keeping His commandments, for in doing so, He will know that we are His friends. To be a disciple of Jesus means to love one another. “My one command is love one another.”
As we probe the readings further, we discover a truth about the command of Jesus: the truth that God first loved us. We never earn God’s love. We cannot merit God’s love. No matter how many commandments we try to keep, we do not merit the love of God. God first loved us. John describes that so clearly in the second lesson: “This is what love means, not that we love God but God first loved us.” And you see that very dramatically carried out in the first lesson of today.
This reading continues the story of the early Church. As Peter baptises Cornelius, the first gentile convert, we are reminded of our theme: God’s generous love is for all, ‘God does not have favourites; anybody ‘who fears God (that is, has a loving reverence before God) and does what it right is acceptable to him’.
God loves us first, and God pours forth gifts in abundance on all of us without our asking. This was a very important breakthrough for the Church. Part of the lesson today is how, if we are open to where God’s love is at work, our Church can grow and expand and spread the Good News everywhere.
God’s love is poured forth without limit in abundance upon everyone. All of those gifts could be used, if only we would be open to the truth that Peter saw and accepted; the truth that changed the church. If we would do that, our church could become vibrant, alive and could really begin to spread the Good News everywhere.
Like Cornelius, we too have, through our baptismal sharing in the Paschal Mystery, been given to share in the mystery of the love of the Father and the Son.
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”
God commands us, He begs us, He implores us, to love one another. It is not a difficult command to obey — as the epistle lesson said, “God’s commands are not burdensome, they are not too hard for us”.
God has not just commanded us to love each other. He has shown us how to love each other, and He has given us what we need to do it with, and He promised us joy and victory over the world when we love with the faith that God is with us to help us as we obey Him.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that God did not sit by the wayside and let us perish. He sent His own son to save us. And now my friends, that son has sent us, and in sending us, He has promised to be with us, giving us the strength we need.
But what does it mean to love as a Christian? In the second reading, St. John reminds us: “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.” Not many of us realize the implications of what love means. Some of us think that we are loving the way God loves us, but actually more often than not, our love has got strings attached. Our love tends to be a selfish love or a love with conditions attached.
We are capable of loving the way God loves us only because we know and remember how much God loved us. Before we can begin to learn to love as Jesus did, we must be aware of and awake to how much we are loved by God. Love is never easy and is something we constantly struggle to do. But we need to remember that love is not about liking or disliking someone. Love is a decision, a choice and a commitment.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that He loves us, just as the Father loves Him, that same intense, unbridled love that we see especially in mothers, and Jesus teaches us that if we want to continue to live in that state of love with God, we need only keep His commandments willingly.
Jesus says the result of that will be joy. There seems to be so little joy in the world today. Some people seldom read the paper or watch the news today because the news is mostly never joyous. But Jesus says: “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
When was the last time you experienced complete joy? Jesus says that we must keep His commands to love God and one another, and by doing so you will achieve complete joy. He does not say when, He does not say how, but He says you will experience it. That is why it is so important to get the priorities of lives straightened out, to forgive others, to be merciful to others, to help others, to show love to others. That is what it is all about. That, according to Jesus, is the meaning of life – devoting ourselves to God and others.
Loving others is only possible when we remain in Christ’s love, and we can remain in Christ’s love when we keep His commandments. Today, Jesus reminds us in the Gospel: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.” Let us thus set aside our pride, our ego, and our prejudices, and truly love the way God loves us, so that Jesus’ own joy may be in us, and our joy be complete.
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
“You did not choose me, but I chose you.” These words of Christ apply to each one of us, we who believe in Him, the Savior of the world. Whether it be by our priesthood, or by our baptism and our confirmation in Christ, each one of us was chosen by the Son of God to be an adoptive son and daughter of the Father in the Spirit. Each one of us has a mission to fulfill: that of spreading forth the Love of God throughout the world for the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If we love God and our neighbor, then we will bear fruit and the Love of God will overcome evil.
In celebrating the Eucharist today, let us ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to teach us how to know and to love Jesus. May Mary make us Apostles of Love, for the Glory of the Father.
May God bless you, through Mary.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.