5TH SUNDAY EASTER 2013 C
The Gospel text today comes from the end of Chapter Thirteen of John’s Gospel. It occurs not long after the washing of the feet and most significantly just after Judas has left the room on his way to betray Christ.
This little word ‘Now’ indicates that the final page in Christ’s story is about to be written. Now that Judas has left the room there is no going back; the decisive series of events that will lead to Christ’s death on the Cross and his ultimate glorification have begun.
And now that Judas has left to do his work, Jesus turns to his disciples and you will notice that Jesus does not speak about his arrest or crucifixion or even his resurrection; instead he uses the word glorification. This is because in John’s understanding the crucifixion, which is the true salvific action, is not a moment of ignominy but a glorious triumph.
John sees in the Cross not Christ’s defeat but his victory. John stresses not the blood and gore but his dignity and glory. Where is the dignity and glory to be found in the cross? Isn’t the way Jesus died the ultimate of mature human love? Innocent, trusting, unwilling out of love to protect himself against suffering, absorbing hatred and sin, understanding and forgiving those who were murdering him, refusing to give back in kind, and refusing to give himself over to bitterness and cynicism —
At this crucial hinge point in the Gospel of John, he speaks to them of the most important things. Jesus gives them what he calls “a New Commandment”: “love one another.” But how, asks St. Cyril of Alexandria, could he call this commandment new? He goes on to explain: Through Moses, he had said to the people of old: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Notice what follows. He was not content simply to say, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.”
The commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself is not new, it is very old indeed going back in the Bible as far as the Book of Leviticus and neither is it unique to Judaism or Christianity, but an important feature of many world religions. So if loving one another is actually very old and widespread, what is it about this commandment that is so new?
Broader and deeper! Firstly, the Jews understood neighbor to include other Jews but certainly not Samaritans or Gentiles. Secondly, the newness is to be found in the words “just as I have loved you.” The New Commandment is for us to love each other not in the way we love ourselves but in the way Jesus loves us. .
“Love one another” sounds like a much simpler and easier religion than the one with ten commandments. But is it?
The law commanded people to love their brothers and sisters as they love themselves, but, St. Cyril says, our Lord Jesus Christ loved us more than himself.
Love resides in the will. St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as "to will the good of the other." Love means to desire what is best for the other person.
How willing am I to accept suffering if faithfulness to loving requires it? Love is the deepest mystery within the universe. This is truly something new! Love stirs all things. The hidden secret is that love is most truly revealed in the brokenness of Jesus on the cross. Aren’t self-sacrifice and self-denial, in the end, the way real love manifests itself? Jesus points out that it is the depth of their love for one another which will allow all the other people in the world to recognize that they are his disciples.
On these Easter Sundays, we read from the Book of Revelation. This New Testament work is puzzling, with its strange descriptions and symbolism. Many readers misunderstand its purpose, and try to find involved, often convoluted references to specific events in our own time or the future. But much of Revelation refers to the time in which it was written. The early Christians lived through persecution under Roman rule. The Book of Revelation is a kind of “resistance literature,” re-enforcing a message of hope to be shared by persecuted Christians. Remember, Jesus has triumphed over evil; God’s enemies will be defeated; even death itself.
Every person and every generation faces its own troubles. We need to hear encouragement, “Behold, I make all things new.”
The basic attitude of the Christian is hope. God is in control. I see this Christian optimism when I’m with a family gathered around the deathbed of a loved One. I see this Christian optimism in the care givers and servants of the sick and poor. We see this Christian optimism whenever we are confronted with a seemingly impossible situation. Somehow or other, all is in God’s care. “Be not anxious, cast your cares upon him for he cares for you.”
No matter what you are facing physically, in your home, in your lives. No matter what you may fear for your loved ones. No matter what questions you have for the future, be positive. Christian hope must permeate every action of our lives.
It is not always easy to dispel anxiety and worry! We as Oblates have been undergoing a Leadership Discernment Process to choose a new Provincial and Team for Lacombe Province in Canada. My name was surfaced as a possible candidate for this position. I became quite anxious and had a few fitful sleeps. I spoke with the General Administration of the Oblates about concerns if I was to be moved from Sacred Heart, St. Paul’s, KateriCenter at this time. I shared some concerns about the role of being on a leadership team. In spite of these objections the General administration in Romephoned me last Saturday to ask me whether I would accept an appointment as Provincial of Lacombe Province. Even though I raised my concerns, the Superior General and his Council still called me. Should I not believe this to be God’s will and trust that somehow “He will make all things new!”? After several days I am at peace about this and I ask you to pray and trust that God will take care too of the future of the Catholic communities in the DTES. Let us plan as well as we might for the unknown future but then trust Him whom we have known to be trustworthy!