Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 6, 2018)

Before we go into today’s readings, let’s recall last Sunday’s message of the biological image of Jesus’ intimacy with us: the parable of the vine and the branches. He taught that as the very life of the vine flows from the vine into the branches, so does the very resurrected life of Jesus flow from him into us.

Today, Jesus speaks more personally. Today’s beautiful letter from john reveals what Jesus’ life is: love. God is love.” His life/love flows from him into us. It has been suggested that the word ‘love’ in our culture is a word in serious need of a bath. It has become so overused, misused, and abused that it needs to be power-washed to renew its sparkle.

This word ‘love appears in one form or another in this Sunday’s readings an amazing twenty times. God’s meaning of ‘preciousness,’ unconditional faithfulness needs to be our focus for ‘love.’ Our experience of human love is ideally a reproduction of it. Too often, it is a poor reflection.

Is there perhaps a short circuit in our love lives? Our personal experience includes that we are conditioned to think we need to earn love. That has been the experience of every one of us at some level:

  • love from our teachers earned for good grades and conduct;
  • love from our employers earned for success in the work place;
  • love from parents earned by some, unfortunately, for being ‘good’ boys and girls.
To the extent that our personal experience is earning love, it is a stretch for us to accept that god does not work like that. It was Basil Hume who said that it is easier to believe in God than to believe that God loves us. The simple truth is: we cannot earn God’s love. We are blessedly “stuck” with it. He has loved us first.

That wonderful revelation: God is love, is who God is and what God does. We hear: “Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us.” That is the heart of today’s readings. Love exists not because we love, but because we are loved. God loves us whether we recognize it, whether we accept it or not.

We hear in the Gospel: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” The depth of that statement is often missed. Jesus is saying that the same, intimate relationship that he experiences with his Father is also passed on to us disciples. Living that reality of being unconditionally loved empowers us, as Jesus says, to “love one another as I love you.” We are part of this magnificent circle of love with the Father, Jesus, and one another.

Jesus taught this best at the Last Supper, when he washed the feet of his disciples and gave us example of how to be towards one another -- in service. Then he turned around and gave himself to us in Eucharist, allowing us to commune with him in word and body/blood in the communion called holy.

We need to make this reality of God’s love an essential part of our ongoing dialogue with ourselves. We all have this constant dialogue in our heads and hearts. It is where we talk to ourselves, where our self-image speaks out. It is here that the conviction of God’s love for us needs to prevail. We need to bask in his love. We become empowered to respond in love both to him and with one another. We convey to others the love we have in our hearts, completing the circle of love. This is God’s plan.

If Lenten practice was self-examination, Easter practice needs to be this life-giving, life-enabling exercise in instilling in us the ever-present conviction of God’s love for us.

Our challenge is to appreciate, to really accept that God loves us unconditionally -- just as we are.

Today’s Gospel is the very core of Jesus’ last supper discourse. We all need to keep this reality always in our ongoing dialogue with ourselves, so that we may constantly listen and lovingly live.