Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - May 9, 2021
On the Sixth Sunday of Easter, we continue to “celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy, which we keep in honor of the risen Lord” (Collect for Mass). God’s own love is the foundation of the life He gives us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Today the First Letter of John tells us that “God is love” and that God’s love was revealed to us in his “sending his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.”
Both the First Letter of John and the Gospel of John remind us that all depends on God’s initiative. In the letter, John tells us that love is first of all about God’s love for us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to god and bear fruit that will remain.”
Love cannot simply be talked about; it needs to be demonstrated and lived. The fullest demonstration of love is not only the love that is shared between the Father and the Son but also the love that the Son shares with us. We remain in Christ’s love by obeying his commandments, just as he keeps his Father’s commandments and remains in his love. Jesus’ commandment is that we love one another as He loves us.
Building on last week’s Gospel passage about the vine and the branches, Jesus intensifies the level of life and love that he shares with us. There is no greater love than “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In laying down his life for his disciples - for you and for me - Jesus identifies us as his friends, and he exhorts us to remain in his friendship by keeping his command to love one another. Jesus makes it clear that “abiding” or “remaining” in one another is impossible without love. He uses the loving relationship he enjoys with the Father to encourage the same kind of relationship for his disciples so that they can have a loving relationship with the Father in and through Jesus and a loving relationship with their disciples, also in and through Jesus.
The first disciples who heard Jesus’ words the night before he died strove to put his teaching into practice, and they learned slowly but surely to be instruments of God’s love and to fulfill Jesus’ command to love. Today’s first reading gives us a wonderful example of this as the Gentile Cornelius and his household meet Peter, who speaks to them of God’s impartiality and acceptance of all who believe and act uprightly. As Peter speaks, the Holy Spirit comes down upon all who were listening, and Peter experiences just how fruitful keeping Christ’s command to love can be. God’s grace and the loving friendship of Christ know no bounds, and disciples, then and now, want to appreciate and live that reality.
Today, as we receive another glimpse of God’s creative, reconciling, and energizing love, and we are reminded of the way his Son is the perfect expression of that love. We also hear that love invites us to deepen our relationship with God and respond generously and joyfully to the One who calls us His friends and entrusts to us his work of compassion and peace. May His example of selflessness and humility inspire us to continue growing in our love for one another.
Today, we also pray for all our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and all those who, hearing our Lord’s command to love, have given a mother’s love and care to others. Living and deceased, may they all know God’s blessing and peace, guidance, and protection.