Easter, the Sixth Sunday

Proclaim a joyful sound and let it be heard; proclaim to the ends of the earth: the Lord has freed His people, alleluia. (Isaiah 48:20)

Grant, almighty God,
that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion
these days of joy,
which we keep in honor of the Rise Lord
and that what we relive in remembrance
we may always hold to in what we do
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power. (Psalm 98:2).

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves (ἠγάπησέν) me, so I also love you (ἠγάπησα). Remain (μείνατε) in my love (ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ τῇ ἐμῇ). If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

“I have told you this so that my joy (ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ) may be in you and your joy might be complete (πληρωθῇ). This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another (John 15:9-17).”

Last week’s echo of “remain” still sounds boldly on this Sunday of Easter. That rich verb μένω (meno), translated here and throughout the Johannine Gospel as to remain, conveys a very engaging activity of building a place to live. μένω (meno) does not mean to remain in a static state of standing still or passively waiting around for something to happen out-of-the-blue. It rather paints a picture of someone single-mindedly working to prepare one’s home to receive a guest. The anticipation of the guest’s arrival and the thoughts of the guest spending time with the host fills everyone with joy. The anticipation of the visit also moves the host to change whatever is needed to accommodate the guest.

But what is the source of that joy? What causes one to engage in the active response-work of μένω (meno)? The answer, from the lips of Jesus, simply is to remain “in my love.” We need to take seriously this entire phrase and not simply the noun "love." Christian living is a qualified and specified love. Let’s face it, in all types of discussions about a whole range of human actions, love is often appealed to as a sort of mitigating license. Everything is OK so long as one loves. (It helps to have the Beatles mantra filling the air in the background to make the discussion sound even nicer and more appealing.) There are as many descriptions of love as there are people. Yet for Jesus, He not only speaks specifically about MY LOVE, He also demonstrates what (actually WHO) this love is in 2 exceptionally concrete ways: the first – keeping the Father’s Commandments; the second – laying down His life. What binds these 2 points together is sacrifice; sacrifice that flows from an act of the will. This is why Christianity contends that love is not a feeling, love is not an emotion – rather love is an act of the will whereby I choose the good of the other. Such an act requires sacrifice on my part. This sacrifice is not only in action, but thought and word as well. How often do I have to have the last word? How often have I plotted to get my own way by orchestrating my own agenda? We compound the matter by then stepping back and complimenting ourselves on a ‘professional job,’ an ‘efficient and equitable use of materials and personnel,’ or worse still – I did it all for love when in fact it has been nothing more than a profound act (or acts) of selfishness. Jesus' command to sacrificial love is creative. It summons one to a way of living that is about the essential good ("good" as used in Genesis) made possible by a free renunciation of self.

Saint Augustine offers a concluding reflection for this Sunday’s Gospel and he tackles a description of Christian love by linking that experience with faith and hope:

But when he said in this way here, “This is my commandment,” as if there were no other, what are we to think? Is, then, the commandment about that love with which we love one another his only one? Is there not another that is still greater, that we should love God? Or did God in truth give to us such a commandment about love alone that we have no need of searching for others? There are three things at least that the apostle commends when he says, “But now abide faith, hope, charity, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.” And although in charity, that is, in love, the two commandments are contained, yet it is here declared to be the greatest, not the only one. Accordingly, what a host of commandments are given to us about faith, what a multitude about hope! Who is there that could collect them together or suffice to number them? But let us ponder the words of the same apostle: “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” And so, where there is love, what can be lacking? And where it is not, what is there that can possibly be profitable? The devil believes but does not love: no one loves who does not believe. One may, indeed, hope for pardon who does not love, but he hopes in vain. But no one can despair who loves. Therefore, where there is love, there will necessarily be faith and hope. And where there is the love of our neighbor, there also will necessarily be the love of God. For one that does not love God, how does he love his neighbor as himself, seeing that he does not even love himself? Such a person is both impious and iniquitous. And he who loves iniquity clearly does not love but hates his own soul. Let us, therefore, hold fast to this precept of the Lord, to love one another, and then we will be doing all else that is commanded, for we have all else contained in this.

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