Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter – on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Servants or Friends

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-485

1 John 4:7-10

John 15:9-17

I once met a man who told me he had declared war on his pastor because he allows people to receive communion in the hand standing rather than on the tongue kneeling. “They are denying the real presence,” he argued, “If they knew that they are actually receiving Christ, they would kneel to receive.” In reply I asked him a revealing question, “What would you do if Jesus appeared to you?”

“Oh!” he replied, “I would immediately fall on my knees.”

“Good,” I said, “But there are people who would simply throw themselves on him out of sheer joy and love for him. Would you say that such people are irreverent?” He kept quiet for a moment as he began to see that it was probably less a question of discerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and more a question of one’s personal relationship and faith approach to Jesus.

Today’s gospel gives us two models of personal relationship to Jesus: as a servant (in Greek doulos means “slave”) or as a friend. At any given point in our faith journey one of these two models is dominant. Either we see our relationship to Christ mainly in terms of master-servant or in terms of friend-friend. With the exception of mystics, traditional lay spirituality in the church has usually followed the master-servant model. Jesus is seen more as a master to be feared, respected and obeyed than as a friend to love in intimacy and familiarity. Today’s gospel challenges us to rethink our relationship with Christ because, evidently, Christ himself prefers to relate with his disciples as friend to friend rather than as master to servant: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

Jesus says that he would no longer call his disciples servants. This seems to indicate that he called them servants until then. Our relationship with Christ goes through different stages. First it starts off as a master-servant relationship when we are new to the faith, but then as our relationship with Christ deepens it changes into a less formal friend-friend type of relationship. Why, then, do so many of us stick to the master-servant way of relating to Christ as if it were the only way? Today’s gospel is a call for us to move beyond the infant stage, the servant-master relationship, and go over to the adult stage, the friend-friend way of relating to Christ. This will change the way we pray and the way we live. We shall begin to pray better (John 15:7) and to experience more peace and joy in our lives, as people do who are in love.

One objection that is often raised by those who promote the master-servant model of relating to Christ is the concern that we are unworthy. Sure enough, we are not worthy. But Jesus has already taken that into consideration. He reminds us that “You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16). If he has decided to chose us in our unworthiness and to love and accept us as we are, then we should not fix our gaze on ourselves and ask, “Who am I, Lord, that you should love me?” Rather we should fix our gaze on him and ask, “Who are you, Lord, that you love me so?”

How can we tell the difference between the irreverence and disrespect shown by those who have no serious relationship with the Lord and true familiarity which grows out of a loving relationship with Him? The key is keeping the Lord’s commandments. Yes, God loves and accepts us as we are, but God loves us too much to leave us as we are. We love babies as they are, yet we want them to grow up. God expects us, similarly, to grow in His love. The Lord’s offer to us of friendship and intimacy with him should not be an excuse for callousness and indifference. Just as God showed His love for us in deed by sending his Son to die for us, so is true love for God always shown in deed by the way we keep the twin commandments of love of God and neighbour. By this we can know if we are truly Christ’s friends, because, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15: 14).

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Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter – on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

 Love Is God

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-485

1 John 4:7-10

John 15:9-17

In the Italian language, the expression amore divino could be understood in two ways. It could be understood as “love of God” (divino) or “love of wine” (di vino). Sometimes when you want to tease someone who has just fallen in love, you ask them, “Is it a question of love of God or of love of wine?” By love of God they mean genuine, disinterested love and by love of wine they mean love that is driven by pleasure-seeking and self-interest. In today’s 2nd reading from John’s First Letter, John paints for us a picture of God’s love, which is another name for true love. John’s teaching on love in today’s passage can be summarised under three headings: why love, what is love, and how does one love?

The passage begins with an exhortation to love. “Beloved, let us love one another (1 John 4:7a). John addresses his readers as “beloved.” This shows that already there is love in the community. What John is actually asking of them is that they should continue loving one another. This message is one that we all need to hear. If we love one another, then we should continue loving one another even more. And if we do not as yet love one another, then it is time to start doing so.

From here John goes on to give his readers reasons why they must love ane another. They must love one another “because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (verses 7b-8). John gives two reasons, a positive one and a negative one. Positively, he says that love is from God. Living a life of love, therefore, is the way to be sure that we know God and that we are children of God. On the flip side, he argues that not having love for others simply means that one does not know God. John’s message is simple: If we have love in our lives, we have God in our lives; and if we do not have love in our lives, we do not have God either. This is because God is love and love is God. God and love are two different words that mean the same thing. You cannot separate one from the other.

John is addressing people who believe they know God, people for whom it is important to love God, people who are focussed on loving God so much so that they sometimes neglect loving their fellow human beings. John is telling them that anyone who claims to be a spiritual person or devout lover of God but does not focus equally on practically loving his of her brothers and sisters is living a lie. To grow in one’s knowledge and love of God, one must endeavour to grow in one’s knowledge and love of one’s fellow human beings.

At this point John’s hearers are beginning to wonder what on earth John means by God’s love, and how God’s love differs from natural human love. So John tells them. He tells them by giving them a practical example of God’s love. “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him” (verse 9). Unlike much of human love, which is driven by self-interest, God is moved to love us not because He, God, needed something but because we needed something which He, God, can give. Before humans love they ask themselves, “What is in it for me?” Before God loves God asks Himself, “How can I help you?” People love because they want to receive something, be it something as intangible as simply feeling good in the other’s company. God loves because He wants to give. That is why the fact of God giving His only Son to die that we might live becomes a typical sign of the way God loves us and the way we should learn to love one another.

This last point on the difference between how God loves and how humans love is so important for John that he goes on and adds one final statement on the nature of true love. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (verse 10). God loves unconditionally. Humans often love by quid pro quo (nothing goes for nothing). For John true love is found not in the way humans usually love but in the way God loves.

We often tend to see love as one commandment among so many. Today John teaches us that love is not one out of so many commandments, it is the only commandment. Moreover, love is not just a commandment of God, love is God Himself. But John is fast to add that not all forms of loving qualify as God since some forms of love do not come from God or lead to God. May God, our loving Father, who is Himself love, help us to purify our love for Him and for one another, so that we can love as generously and as unconditionally as He, God, loves us.

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6th Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

I want to ask you to try and reminisce a little.  Try to remember when you were much younger and were thrilled to have been chosen—maybe for a role in the school play or to play on your school athletic team—maybe it was the nicest boy in the school asking you to the prom or maybe it was getting elected student body president.  Whatever it was, it certainly felt good to be chosen.

Well, in today’s gospel, Jesus tells His disciples (and us too) that He has chosen us to “go out and bear fruit that will last”.  And, as the comedian W. C. Fields used to say, “Ah, there’s the rub”.

Hmm, chosen by God—now that could be a problem for some of us now, couldn’t it?  I wonder if some of us might be thinking, “thanks a lot God.  Couldn’t you have chosen someone else?  You know, maybe chosen someone more spiritual.  Why me”?

To be sure, it’s very flattering to be ‘chosen’, especially when we have Jesus tell us that He, personally, chose us and it was not us choosing Him.  Well, maybe after that first blush, a certain concern enters our mind.  We begin to realize that, along with the joy of being chosen, there also comes with it a certain degree of responsibility.  As we’ve all heard, there are no free lunches.

And, some of us don’t particularly care for being ‘chosen’ by Jesus.  You see, the bottom line is this.  Once we’ve been chosen our options as Christians become limited.  We are no longer free to do our own thing.  And, being raised in a consumer culture that stresses ‘choice’ in everything, we begin to resent rules and limits.  Even commercials on TV stress this, e.g. “No rules, just right” (Outback Steak House) or “Life without limits” (Prince Macchiabelli) or “The rules are for breaking” (Spice Girls).

But, here come Jesus telling us that once we claim to be His disciples, we must know our limits.  We are no longer foot loose and fancy free.

For some of us, following Christ becomes too difficult a choice to make.  We’re just too caught up in the world, the flesh and the devil and a tension develops between what we know is right and what we are doing with our lives.  Instead of becoming joy-filled and joyful Christians, we become withered on the vine—joyless people.  And as Saint Teresa of Avila has said so eloquently, “Lord, spare me from sour-faced Christians”.

So, what about ourselves?  Do we see our precious religion as dry and dreary and boring and joyless?  If so, why is that?

Well, one reason could be that we don’t give enough importance to attending holy Mass.   We get a lot more excited about attending a sporting event or an opera or a concert than being intimate with God, our savior.  Attending holy Mass is important, perhaps the most important thing we can do because of the eternal consequences associated with it.

Holy Mass is so important to God that He made it an obligation for us to go every Sunday (or Saturday night).  It’s a kind of safety net for our eternal (and daily) lives.  You know, there are many times in our lives when we just don’t feel like doing something that we should do.  Obligations help us through times like these.  If we only went to holy Mass or prayed when we felt like it, how strong would our faith be?  When faithfulness to private prayer and going to holy Mass is costly and goes against our natural inclinations, we are offering to God something that is especially pleasing to Him.  Such costly offerings strengthen our faith and also deepen it.

At the same time, any religion that never gets beyond the fulfillment of a list of minimum obligations is always a joyless one.  Religious practice of that type is like the attitude of a child who always asks, whenever he/she is asked to do something they don’t like, “Do I have to”?

People who go through life with the “Do I have to” attitude are people without joy in their lives.  It’s no wonder that Catholics who are always asking that question about their religion find it a burden rather than a source of joy.

Catholics who never go beyond fulfilling a list of minimum requirements are trying, whether they realize it or not, to keep God on the fringe of their lives.  To them, God seems so much less threatening from a distance.  As a matter of fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  Just the opposite is true.  As long as we keep God at a distance, He will always seem like a threat to us.  He will always try to move closer to the center of our lives.  God will stop being a threat only when He is already at the center of our lives.

God, the Father, was always at the center of Jesus’ heart.  Jesus knows that our joy will only come from God being at the center of our hearts too.

Jesus wants us to have more joy in our lives, not less.  In fact, He tells us that He wants our joy to be ‘complete’.

So, do you want joy in your life?  If you do, it’s right there for the taking.  All you have to do is fall in love with Jesus.  It’s not so difficult because He already is in love with you.


Homily # 2

The two men who came to visit were immaculately dressed. There was a sweetness about their courtesy, even though you could sense they were stern. They came to present a large book to someone they thought would be sympathetic, someone who respected the pope and was unafraid to write about sin.

“I still believe in the old faith,” one of them said. “The old faith? What faith?”

“I mean our faith before they started talking about love all the time. There was right and wrong and there was punishment. There was fear of God and the following of the law. Since Vatican II and the theology of love, everything has been watered down and made easy.”

My heart went out to the men. But it was with sadness. “Well, when do you think the love stuff started? Don’t you think Jesus talked about love?”

One of them said he knew there was a place for love, but in these days it had taken over everything and made a mess of the church. I felt depleted and tense after the meeting was over. It seemed that this good man had missed so much. Yet he was trying to reach for a truth that we all are somehow in touch with.

As for love, the Gospels and Epistles would fragment into a million pieces without it. Our saints would be incomprehensible, our heroes nonexistent. And Jesus would not be. “For God so loved the world that he sent ………”

The following passage is from the 1st letter of John, not the Second Vatican Council: “Love is of God. Everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. The person without love has known nothing of God, for God is love. Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and has sent his Son as an offering for our sins.” How could we imagine a Christianity before love became its center?

The love that this letter describes is not primarily our love of God, but God’s love for us revealed in the offering of the Son for the forgiveness of our sins. It is the same love that Paul celebrates in the 13th chapter of the Corinthians, the love from which, he writes in Romans, we can never possibly be separated.

Jesus, in the fourth gospel, calls us to live in that love. How are we to do that? By keeping his commandments. Ah, finally the law, finally right and wrong. And what is his commandment? “Love one another as I have loved you.” There is no escape. Our faith in Jesus is haunted by the mystery of love.

Perhaps this mystery itself is what causes us disquiet. Love, after all, is not easily won, rarely found, and never really earned. It also leads to improbably situations like that of the prodigal son and the lost sheep and to forgiveness to dreadful sinners.

This is, of course, not the narcissistic and self-indulgent state of mind that passes for “love’ in contemporary life. Nor is it the great tidal wave of emotion associated with “falling in love”. Rather it is, Paul reminds us, patience and kindness. It lets go of jealousy, conceit and resentment. It delights in the truth. It trusts. It hopes. It endures. All of these qualities of love are attributes of God’s love for us. What is more, love’s greatest expression—to lay down one’s life for one’s friends—is what the Passion means.

None of this is new. And none of it is easy.

To have or not have rules can be easy. To keep or break commandments can be easy. We can set up our lives in such a manner that we allow no restraint or limit on our egos and desires. We can also legislate our lives so relentlessly that we delude ourselves into thinking that we have actually earned, produced, and now control the love that our scriptures speak of.

But the love revealed in Jesus, simple as it sounds, is terribly arduous. This is why the history of our faith so often reads like a history of our resistance to love.

Give us rules. Give us magic. Give us threats. Give us mighty victories in war or splendid successes in the marketplace to insure our worthiness. Give us Communion counts, converts, and the approval of the nations to guarantee our righteousness. But the mystery of love?

One of Dorothy Day’s favorite passages from world literature occurs in Dostoevski’s, The Brothers Karamazov, where the old Father Zossima points out to Madame Hohlokov that her supposed crisis of faith is in reality a crisis of love: “For love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in sight of all …. But active love is labor and fortitude, and for some people, too, perhaps a complete science.”

No, love is not as easy as we may think. And its challenge to us is certainly nothing new.


Homily # 3

Have you noticed a trend in our modern society which seems to emphasize “love” but considers the Commandments of God a negative attitude on the part of our Father?

Today’s readings make many references to “love”. Paul writes, “Whoever is without love does not know God.” Jesus comments, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He also said, “This I command you, love one another.”

So, to some, love is the answer. Why be negative? Why discuss the commandments when Jesus Himself emphasizes love.

But wait a minute! When we observe these two concepts in a different light, aren’t they exactly the same? Isn’t loving one’s neighbor keeping the commandments? Let’s analyze this. If I love you, each of you, would I ever harm you? Would I injure you or would I kill you? If I did that, it would be a very strong sign that I did not love you.

If I truly love God, would I ignore Him? Would I never think of Him or seek His company? And, therefore, as we read the first three commandments which specifically state we will put God first in our lives and we will set aside one day a week for worshipping Him, those Commandments make perfect sense. Where could we find a greater love than the love God has for us? Is he not responsible for our very life? So, when we consider the commandment to love God our reaction should be, “Well, that’s not really a commandment. That’s just common gratitude.”

Love is not only an emotion but it also calls for action. A spouse may say to his or her mate, “You don’t love me any more!” A husband might respond, “Why do you say that, honey?” The answer comes back, “Because you don’t spend time with me, because you don’t notice me. You don’t talk to me.” Sound familiar? Paul says, “Love is kind, love is patient” but it is more than just an emotion … it is action. Jesus puts in very plainly when He says, “Love one another.”

Lets look at some of the other hard to obey commandments. What about, “Thou shalt not steal.” Can you imagine stealing something from someone if you truly loved them? Would you steal from your best friend or from your children? So how do we destinguish between the Commandments and love? Well we don’t have to because

in His wisdom, God is calling us to loving actions in two different ways: keeping the commandments and loving our neighbors. Isn’t the same true of lying, of slander, of physically harming someone? If I love someone I could never treat them in that manner.

It’s true of men and women in love. One only has to study the statistics to realize God’s way is the best way. If two people are truly in love they will remain chaste until they marry. If they don’t, and they break up, someone is going to be deeply hurt. The statistics on trial marriages is very depressing. Couples who live together get married less than 50% of the time. Of those who do marry, over 50% of them get divorced. So, when God says, “Remain chaste until marriage” He’s simply saying, “You may consider this commandment difficult to follow but, in reality, I’m only trying to keep you from getting hurt.” Why? “Because I, your God, loves you more than you can ever imagine.”

So, let’s change history. Moses didn’t come down from the mountain with the two tablets. Instead, Jesus came down from the mountain and proclaimed, “Love one another as I love you.” Well, if everyone loved one another as Jesus asks, there would be no need for the commandments. By like token, since we already have commandments, it’s taken for granted we would treat each other as Jesus treated us, with great love. God is making it easy for us. He’s saying the same thing is two different ways. He probably figures we may not hear just one instruction.

Why is this important to us living in our modern, promiscuous society? Because there is a philosophy that says we should never judge anyone. The “live and let live”society in which we live can be very dangerous, particularily to the young people. Even mentioning the commandments can create an impression that on is “judgemental” and “mean spirited”. Teaching our children that love is the only answer is telling them only half the story. Without the understanding that God has given us commandments in addition to exhorting us to love one another, we can easily fall into the trap that if we are loving, everything will be fine.

However, the two concepts are not contradictory. Listen to Paul’s words, “Whoever is without love does not know God.” Jesus says the same thing but He approaches this concept from a different angle. He says, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Then He sums it all up by incorporating the two concepts when He says, “This I command you, love one another.”

In John’s gospel, the story of the woman accused of adultery indicates the importance of both love and the commandments. The Pharisees brought a woman to Him who had committed adultery, for which the punishment was stoning. When Jesus said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone” no one responded and eventually the crowd dispersed. Then in a classic exchange, Jesus asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one sir.” Jesus answered, “Neither do I condemn you.” He saved her life because He loved her. However, His next words were, “Go and sin no more.” He indicated adultery is an offense against the commandments and said, in effect, “Keep the commandments. Don’t do it again.”

There’s an old song entitled “Love and Marriage”. The key line is, “You can’t have one without the other.” So it is that love and the commandments are the two cornerstones of our spiritual lives. They fit comfortably together.


Homily # 4

If someone were to ask you what is the most overworked word in our language, what would you reply?  Maybe a toddler would say (or his or her parents would say) NO.  Perhaps a young adult might say, MUST, or parents would say of children WHY.  Some would say we use the pronoun I far too often, maybe it’s WHATEVER.

I would propose the most overworked word in our language is love.  And I would propose its overuse is linked to its importance.  But sadly talking about love, hoping for love, longing for love isn’t loving, and doesn’t make love happen.  Now, don’t misunderstand, this is not a homily against love, or speaking about it, I hope rather it gives a way for us to really embrace life and love.

Both the second reading and Gospel point out one of loves most challenging truths:  Love is not something we create; rather it is a gift from God to which we respond. “Love is this, not that we have loved God, but rather that God has loved us”, “you did not choose me, I chose you, to go forth and bear fruit”.  Children must be loved if they are to grow and develop, there is in fact a medical condition for infants who have not been sufficiently held, cuddled, fondled, fed and given love, it is called “failure to thrive”.  Literally these children do not grow, put on weight, and learn to walk, or speak.  Without love we die.  Children cannot love themselves into life and growth; we must do it for them.  And when we do, they are on the road to living in a way, that will allow them to recognize the love of God for them, and in turn give that love to others.  You cannot “make” friends, you can be a friend, and act in loving ways toward another, but love is always a response.  The greatest challenge we are given as God’s sons and daughters is to see, know, recognize and cherish God’s love for us.  Can you say in several sentences how you know, and are absolutely convinced that God loves you?  Or what is God’s preeminent sign of love in your life?  This knowledge is absolutely essential, for from it flows our response, and without it our responses can be easily manipulated, misused, or misdirected.  I’m sure I’ve met some grossly selfish people in my life, but I’m more convinced that I’ve loved badly, as have others, not for selfish reasons, but rather because I’ve tried to chase after and create love from within myself alone, or I longed for it so desperately that I mistook a variety of things for love.

I am not a slave any longer, but a friend of God’s; called to go forth and bear fruit.  I am loved by God, into life, into my call, into all that I can be and do.

If I hold love for me, afraid to give or share it, then I thwart the call of God, the plan of God.  It is a gift given, and cannot be created, but once given it is remains a gift only if shared.  This is an obligation, not a wish.  Not to choose to live the love given us by God diminishes and undoes us.  And so what we do absolutely matters, and love is never easy, and will always demand all of us, and all we can be and give all the time.  So we will spend our whole lives learning to return to God, by prayer, service and love of others, in fact all others, the love God has given us.  We cannot live without love, and it is life’s greatest challenge.  All made possible, really possible for us by God’s overwhelming, overflowing, never ending love for us.  A love we cannot create, deserve, or earn; a love freely given, a love tangibly given to us in Christ Jesus.

So, do you know, really know how much God loves you?  Can you say this in concrete tangible terms?  What is God’s greatest manifestation of love in your life?  What is God calling you to be and do because you are loved?  How are you responding?  How could your response be more full?  How have you failed in a loving response and what can lead you to move forward?

We are loved by God!  Thanks be to God!  What a gift!  What a call!


Homily # 5

In the first reading from Acts Cornelius and family receiving the Holy Spirit. In a few week we celebrate Pentecost. The experience of the early church receiving the Holy Spirit.

Often I am asked to explain the powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit. I like to use this illustration: take a glass of milk. Drink from it. God made milk wholesome. God made milk good for the body. We are like milk. God made each of us good, in fact very good, according to Genesis 1: 31.  We receive the Holy Spirit at our Baptism. I then pour chocolate syrup into the milk.  This chocolate syrup is like the Holy Spirit, which is poured into our life at Baptism.  Holding up the glass I taste the milk. And comment that it still tastes the same and looks the same. I then ask the question. What needs to happen? Someone always responds that it needs to be stirred up. I then stir up the chocolate until we now have chocolate milk. I then taste it and comment that life is now sweeter, looks different. I prefer chocolate milk to white milk.

So how do we stir up the Holy Spirit in our life?

(Before the Spirit is stirred up)

I take a blank paper and draw a large circle on it. I then put myself in the center of the circle by writing “ME” and inside the circle I add things like, money, power prestige, possessions, sports, friends, family, etc. I decide how I will spend my time, my money. How I will be with my friends, my family, how I play sports, How I like power, prestige, and possessions. After all I have the right to choose.

(How to stir up the Spirit)

I take another piece of blank paper and draw a circle. This time I put a cross in the center, which represents Christ. I then put the same items in the circle, which were in the first circle. This time I ask Jesus how I should spend my time and my money. How I should act with my friends, family, sports. I ask Jesus what to do with power, prestige, and possession.

What I have found in doing this is that my life is simpler. That the Holy Spirit can now use me to give the gifts to the people God loves so deeply. I find that there is power in my life to love when I couldn’t love before.

If you want to have a sweeter, greater tasting life put Jesus at the center of every decision you make. Put Jesus at the center of every relationship you have and I guarantee that you will experience the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Your life will never be the same with Jesus at the center.

I then ask the question: What would happen if we didn’t keep the chocolate stirred up?  The obvious answer is that it would settle down to the bottom again. This is true with the spiritual gifts. If we don’t keep Jesus at the center of our life the power of the Holy Spirit will become dormant in our life and the gifts will diminish.

Today like Cornelius and his family put Christ at the center of your life and receive the power of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to love as Jesus commanded.


Homily # 6

Since the beginning of time humanity has asked one question, which is at the same time very simply and very profound: who is God?  We human beings know, naturally, that there has to be a being infinitely superior to us.  This world in which we live has to be the work of a superior intellect, someone who is much more powerful than humanity.  Who is this being?  Why were we created?  What are we living?

When our Lord lived here on earth there was much speculation about who was the true God.  The majority of peoples and nations had a great number of gods.  Those gods were the image and likeness of the human beings who created them.  They were bloody-handed and vengeful.  They took care of themselves and looked down on beings who were less powerful.  For them, humanity existed to be dominated as they wished.

Among all the peoples of the earth, only the Jewish people had a different idea about who God was.  For them Yahweh was not just the only God but he was also a different kind of God all together.  The Jews believed that Yahweh was not an evil god.  He was a God who loved his people so much that he made a covenant with them.  It was a simple, but profoundly moving, promise.  And during the long history of the Jewish people, God continued to repeat his promise, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  God promised to love and be faithful to his people.  He promised to protect them.  In exchange, his people promised to love God and to be faithful to him.  They also promised to obey his laws.  These are the bases for a relationship with God: love, fidelity and obedience.

After the Resurrection of the Lord the great news that the apostles proclaimed was very simple.  As Saint Peter said in our First Reading, “God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”  Jesus Christ, God himself born among us, amplified the promise that he had made to the Jewish people.  From that moment on, all the peoples of the earth share in that same promise.  Our Lord promises us that if we are faithful to him, if we obey his teachings during our life, if we love him, he will be faithful to us, he will protect us, and he will love us.

On many occasions, we could ask ourselves, with humanity being as it is, how can God love us?  My brothers and sisters, this is the great mystery of life.  Jesus tells us: “ It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”  In spite of our sins and our lack of faith, God continues to make the same offer of friendship and total dedication to us that goes beyond the limits of our understanding.  Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the true God, freely accepted his death on the Cross “as expiation for our sins.”  And he did it simply because he loves us.

We Christians have the obligation to proclaim that great love that God has for all humanity.  Saint John tells us in the Second reading “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.”  This is the Gospel, the good news, which the Church announces throughout the world.


Homily # 7
Acts 10:25 -26,34-35,44-48

1Jn 4:7-10

Jn 15:9-17

A young woman walked into a fabric shop and asked the proprietor if she had any kind of noisy rustling fabric material in white. The proprietor searched the inventory and finally found two bolts of fabric that fit the description. As she was cutting the fabric to the customer’s specification, the proprietor’s curiosity got the best of her and she asked why the woman wanted such an unusual and noisy cloth. The young woman replied, “You see, I’m making a wedding gown, and my fiancé is blind. When I walk down the isle, I want him to know when I’ve arrived at the altar, so he won’t be embarrassed.

Most Christians are surprised to learn the truth. In fact, many will argue with you. Agape, the word in the New Testament so often uses for Christian love, meant the same thing in their day as our English word “love” means in our day. It wasn’t special. It wasn’t specific.

“Agape means unconditional love!” Someone will respond. They’ve read a book or two about it. They’ve heard homilies about it. They’re sure of it. And they’re almost right.

Agape sat there in the Greek language without a sharp precise and clear cut meaning. “I love my wife.” “I love a beautiful sunrise.” “I love the chariot races.” “I love to fish.” That’s how agape could be used. It was a sloppy word for love. Just like our word. Then, the writers of the New Testament and the disciples of Jesus got a hold of it.

John and Paul were leaders in articulating Christian love. They grabbed agape and gave it a new precision in two powerful ways. They defined agape by the work of God to redeem and save us. Then they emphasized that love was something a Christian did.

God’s work in Jesus defines agape love. The Bible does not simply tell us that God loves us. Instead, we are always shown a demonstration of God’s love. God made it clear that agape is something he does, not just something he feels. Rather than being unconditional love, agape is conditioning love. Agape changes things because it acts. If acts first. Agape acts sacrificially. Agape is God’s conditioning power that changes things by acting on situations redemptively.

Christians are to have this kind of love for one another—granted, it is not by their own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit who pours love into our heart, and by following the example of God who so generously loves us.

For Christians, agape love is something you do for another. Agape is conditioning love, because it chooses to act redemptively on behalf of another regardless of the outcome and because God has already loved us with such a love. Agape chooses to act redemptively because by acting, the situation is changed.

It dramatizes, especially, the kind of love Jesus describes in today’s gospel when he says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And, again, when he says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

It has been pointed out that when all is said and done, love boils down to a question of giving. It’s a question of self giving. It’s a question of forgiving. And it’s a question of thanksgiving.

Love is a question of action, doing for others as Jesus has done for us.

Story from: Stories for all seasons, Gerard Fuller

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Editorial

Let us be true friends of Jesus

May 16, 2009, 9:26pm

Manila Bulletin

Today’s Gospel reading gives us two models of personal relationship with Jesus: As a servant and as a friend. At any given point in our faith journey, one of these two models is predominant. Either we see our relationship with Him mainly in terms of master-servant or in terms of friend-friend.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you’’ (Jn 15:12-15).

With the exception of mystics, traditional spirituality in the church has followed the master-servant model. Jesus is seen more as a Master to be feared, respected, and obeyed than as a Friend to love in intimacy and familiarity.

Today, Jesus challenges us to once again rethink our relationship with Him because, evidently, He himself prefers to relate with us, His disciples, as friend to friend rather than as master to servant.

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.’’ (Jn 14:16-17)

Since Jesus decided to consider us as His friends despite our unworthiness, then we should not fix our gaze on ourselves and ask, “Who am I, Lord, that You should love me?’’ Rather we should fix our gaze on Him and ask, “Who are You Lord, that You love me so?’’

The words of Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel reading is a call for us to move beyond the infant stage, the servant-master relationship, and go to the adult stage, the friend-friend way of relating to Jesus Christ. This will change the way we pray to God and the way we practice our faith. We shall begin to experience more peace and joy in our lives, as people do who are in love.

God expects us to grow in His love. Just as God showed His love for us in deed by sending His Son to die for us, so is true love for God always shown in deed by the way we keep the twin commandments of love of God and neighbor.

By this we can know if we are truly Christ’s friends, because He Himself said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.’ (Jn 15:14).

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Moments
Abide

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:10:00 05/16/2009
THE STORY is told about a young woman who excitedly boasted to her friend about her first date, naively saying: “I was so impressed. I think he loves me! He brought me to dine in this big restaurant with so many choices of food!” When asked what the name of the restaurant was, her response was: “Food court!”

* * *

Often, we think we know what love is, but in today’s Gospel (Jn. 15, 9-17) the Lord tells us what true love is: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” We go through many levels of loving, but the bottom line of love is sacrifice, i.e., dying to oneself, and in some cases, literally dying for others.

* * *

I am writing this column in the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal where the Blessed Mother re-echoed her son’s message that we love one another, and issued her call to the world to “banish war and fears.” At the side entrance to the shrine is displayed a piece of the Berlin Wall, a testament that indeed, a lot of things can be achieved by prayer and penance. But the mission goes on. There are still a lot of walls between us and among us that need dismantling, and a lot of prisons within us that need breaking.

* * *

I have done a lot of pilgrimages, and more and more, I see pilgrimage not so much as a journey to pilgrimage sites, but a journey into God’s heart. For indeed, one can go to all the holy places and be awed by all sorts of religious experiences, but if there is no real conversion and no moving on, then it’s all talk and decoration. Don’t get me wrong: Pilgrimages are a big help to conversion, and I have seen a lot of pilgrims change and become better persons, but the journey to God’s heart can begin anywhere, anytime, as long as a heart is open.

* * *

The journey to God’s heart begins with humility. At the sanctuary in Fatima, on the eve of the anniversary of Mother Mary’s first apparition in Fatima, Portugal, it was such an awesome sight to see an ocean of lighted candles from people all over the world, braving the rain and the cold, each one begging the Lord for mercy, and pleading for forgiveness, favor or help. Yes, the journey to God’s heart begins when in all humility one says: “I need you. I cannot do it alone. Lord please help me.”

* * *

It is amazing that in that crowd of about 100,000 one felt that one was not alone, and that one was loved. I felt the personal love of the Lord and the Blessed Mother, assuring me that I was understood, appreciated and forgiven. God’s heart is so big, and there is plenty of room for everyone, anyone.

* * *

If you look at the image of Our Lady of Fatima, you would notice that her head is tilted toward the left, toward her heart, signifying that she is listening to all who come to her heart. That makes her right ear turned upwards, signifying that she is also listening to God. Mama Mary shows us that true loving is listening with one’s heart. Without prayer we cannot truly love; and without love, we cannot truly pray.

* * *

Whenever I travel abroad, I can’t help but sigh in prayer whenever I remember our country, the Philippines. I am filled with mixed feelings when I think of our present situation: Sadness for the sufferings of our people; for the greed and selfishness of our politicians and government leaders; admiration for the courage and faith of our simple people; and optimism that in spite of all that we are going through, there is reason, there is meaning, and there is hope. We must believe, and keep on believing that God loves our country, and that He has a beautiful plan for us. Presumptuous? It is better to be presumptuous of God’s love.

* * *

Speaking of Fatima, Fatima Soriano, the blind girl who has touched so many people with her inspiring courage and joyful faith is back in the Philippines. When I asked her how she was taking her return to our country after a year in the United States, her simple reply was: “Siguro may plano si Lord, at may misyon pa ako dito sa Pilipinas [Maybe the Lord has a plan, and I still have a mission here in the Philippines].” Come to think of it, a lot of our problems would be lighter if we were more trusting and more submissive to God’s will. “Remain in my love.” This is what the Lord tells us today.

* * *

When I asked Fatima Soriano what she missed most about the Philippines when she was abroad, her answer was the simplicity and the joy and laughter of Pinoys. In America, people worked and just worked, and the few times they got together, all they talked about was money and material things. Even the laughter over there was different, she said. Indeed, it is not enough to live successful lives, but significant lives. Life is not so much about riches and comfort, but about meaning and bearing fruits.

* * *

Remaining in God’s love means persevering till the very end. For those who may feel tired, broken or disillusioned about living and loving on, please don’t let go of these three basic reasons for holding on, namely: to give God the Glory; to obtain for others God’s grace and bounty; to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. In the end, what matters most is that we did abide in His love. Let us all pray that in God’s mercy, He will give us final perseverance.

* * *

PHILIPPINE SVD CENTENNIAL MOMENT: Since 1972, Fr. Leo Schmitt, SVD started some kind of a “Gawad Kalinga” project by helping the homeless urban poor relocate themselves to affordable housing projects in Antipolo, Rizal. Through the management of the Samahang Bagong Buhay, and with funding from Misereor Germany and help from friends, Father Leo provided not only housing for the poor but also created communities living together in faith and love. Because he remained and continued to remain in God’s love, this SVD missionary has borne many fruits such as San Antonio Village, San Jose Freinademetz Subdivision, Simona, San Agustin Village, and Janssenville, to name some, not to mention the many lives and hearts he has touched.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to abide by your commands and to abide in your love. Amen.

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Word Alive

Love’s Qualities

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

May 12, 2012, 1:26am

MANILA, Philippines – There’s a poignant story told when a destructive earthquake hit Turkey in December, 1988. After the earthquake, rescue teams worked frantically, hoping that some people buried under the rubble might still be alive.

Eight days after the killer quake, miraculously a woman was found alive. So was her three-year-old daughter. How did the frail daughter manage to survive? Throughout the eight days, the mother repeatedly punctured her fingers, letting her child suck the blood coming from them. Through the mother’s heroic act, her child survived!

* * *

The story illustrates the sacrificing love of a mother, which  is a fitting testimony on Mother’s Day. The story also hints at the kind of love God has for us.

Jesus says in the gospel of this 6th Sunday of Easter, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you.”

Though Jesus did not write a neat treatise on the kind of love He was talking about, He did indicate some of the qualities it should possess.

* * *

One distinctive quality of that love is the ability to give one’s self for the good of the other. In other words, to sacrifice for the other, as the Turkish mother showed in the above story.

But “laying down one’s life for another” belongs to martyrs and heroes. They do not come often in life and it’s difficult.

* * *

A young Romeo once wrote a love letter to his girlfriend. In flowery words, he professed: “Dear Maricel, I can climb the highest mountain… swim the seven seas… fight the most ferocious  lion in the jungle to prove my love for you.”

Then he signed: “Your ever loving Johnny.” Right below it he scribbled a P.S. (postscript): “I’ll visit you on Sunday if it will not rain!”

* * *

Here’s a guy who declares his love through dramatic ways, but when it comes to doing a simple thing, he says, “Sorry, I can’t make it on Sunday it rains.”

More often love is expressed in the ordinary, day-to-day situations, like being kind when you’re feeling irritable or sharing your time, your effort, even money for one who is in need, or being considerate of other’s feelings.

* * *

The second characteristic of Christian love is UNIVERSAL. Love applies to all. A constant temptation for the Christian is to draw lines in the practice of love: Racial lines, religious lines, personality lines. We tend to love those who are “naturally” lovable: the nice people, the attractive, the good-looking.

But how about the unlovable or difficult people who are sharp-tongued, critical, and sarcastic? Some of us would wash the feet of our neighbor, only if we were sure that those feet were clean – or even perfumed!

* * *

Remember what a writer once said: “Let us love with all our hearts and accept the unlovable side of others, for anyone can love a rose but only a great heart can include the thorns”?

Finally, Christian love is TANGIBLE and practical, that is, characterized by concrete acts of service. Someone once said, “They do not love those that do not show their love.” Love must prove itself in deeds.

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/359360/loves-qualities

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Moments

Just keep on loving

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:51 pm | Saturday, May 12th, 2012

The story is told about two old friends who had a big quarrel and who had not talked with each other for years. As one of them was about to die, the priest asked the other one to come, and they were reconciled. But as his friend was leaving the room, the dying man shouted: “Remember, this counts only if I die!”

* * *

In today’s gospel (Jn. 15, 9-17), Jesus expresses his last wish and command: “Love one another as I love you.” We as a human family, as a nation, as a community, as individuals, need to go back and really listen to this reminder again and again. The key to our problems is love, and loving more.

* * *

Today is Mother’s Day. We remember and pay tribute to mothers who love, and who continuously show us the path of love. As it were, mothers are living reminders of peace, unity, and love. We salute them, peace makers as they are, for not giving up, and for continuing to be agents of peace and reconciliation.

* * *

Do you want to be really happy? Jesus tells us today the secret for true joy and happiness: to remain in his love, and to love others. If there is unhappiness in your life, check your love battery.  Maybe you are “low bat” in your love for God and/or in your love for others.

* * *

Take note: Jesus’ last wish and command is not to love ourselves! Along with this is the command to bear fruit. We are not here to live useless, selfish, vain and empty lives. We have been chosen to live fruitful and meaningful lives.

* * *

Fr. Victor Bunanig, SVD, from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, was one person who lived a fruitful and meaningful life. He died at the age of 78, 50 years of which were spent as a missionary in Indonesia. Here was a person who remained in God’s love, and who remained in his God-given assignment. He was one of 10 Filipino missionaries assigned to Indonesia; the assignment started in 1953, and his passing also ended, according to Fr. John O’ Mahony, SVD, “a great chapter of Filipino SVD mission work in Indonesia.” We can’t help but be inspired and be edified by the simplicity, hard work, humility, and zeal of our veteran missionaries.

* * *

We lost a gentle soul in our midst in the person of Fr. Orlando de Guzman, SVD, who died last May 10 at the age of 77. This soft-spoken unassuming gentleman also from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, did his work with humility and joy. He never complained, nor did I ever hear him say anything negative. He was a man of few words, and many smiles.

* * *

Another gentle soul, Eli Segundo, an ex-SVD seminarian (XVD), has gone home to the Creator at the age of 68. He was our regent in my first year in high school at Christ the King Seminary. I went to pray over him last May 6. Before I left his room at the UST Hospital, I asked him to sing with me the “Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen),” a song he himself taught us in 1966. He was a very Marian person. He was co-founder of the Perpetual Rosary Movement. He remained an SVD all the way, being the president of the Lay Society of Saint Arnold Janssen. God bless you, Eli. Mama Mary loves you!

* * *

“If I could only see my child, even just once, even just for a moment…” This was what

Manang Mitsi told me in tears as she related how she had to give up her child born out of wedlock for adoption as soon as she was born. Now 72 years old, she has moved on and has raised her own family, but in her heart, she still wonders where her child is, and what has become of her, and she hopes against all hope to be able to embrace and tell her how much she loves her. Only God knows the depth of a mother’s love!

* * *

We celebrate today the Feast of our Lady of Fatima, to remind us that we have a Heavenly Mother who will always abide by us and protect us. She promised at Fatima to banish war and fears. Let us pray for her motherly protection and intercession, especially during these uncertain times with our neighbor China.

* * *

Let us also pray for our Motherland, ravaged by selfish government leaders and politicians. We ask Mother Mary to lead us out of darkness and into the light, and to give us good and able leaders and a new way of doing politics in our land.

* * *

Let us pray also for Mother Nature, and for the preservation and healing of Mother Earth. May we leave behind a better place for the future generation.

* * *

I praise and thank God for blessing Mama with 90 years of life. Aside from periodic bouts with arthritis, she is healthy, alert, and ambulatory. I thank God for beautiful and meaningful moments spent with her when we go together down memory lane and listen to her stories, lessons, hopes, and dreams. I like it most when she would spontaneously burst into a smile or laughter over something or someone good or bad, happy or sad, that she remembers. What makes her able to do that is her deep faith and trust in God, and her deep love for others. God bless and reward our mothers!

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to love, and to just keep on loving. Amen.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/28591/just-keep-on-loving

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DAKILANG PAG-IBIG: Reflection for 6th Sunday of Easter Year B – May 13, 2012

Ano ba ang pakiramdam ng isang taong walang nagmamahal? Sabi ng isang text na natanggap ko: “ubod ng lungkot… parang aso na walang amo, parang adik na walang damo, parang dinuguan na walang puto, parang zesto na walang straw, parang tinola na walang sabaw, parang babae na walang dalaw, parang bahay na walang ilaw, parang ako na walang ikaw…” hehehe… Kaya siguro bago lisanin ni Jesus ang mundong ito ang kanyang huling habilin ay tungkol sa pag-ibig: “Ito ang iniuutos ko sa inyo: magibigan kayo.” Nakakalungkot lang isipin na mula sa mensaheng ito ay lumitaw ang mahigit 22,000 na magkakaibang relihiyon at sekta na namumuhi at nasusuklam sa isa’t isa! Bakit nagkaganoon? Nagkamali ba si Jesus sa pagpapaliwanag kung ano ang dapat na katangian ng pag-ibig? Malinaw ang mga katagang binitiwan ngayon ni Jesus sa Ebanghelyo. Ang unang katangian ng pag-ibig ay ang kakayahang magsakripisyo alang-alang sa kapakanan ng iba. “Walang pag-ibig na hihigit pa sa pag-ibig ng isang taong nag-aalay ng kanyang buhay para sa kanyang mga kaibigan.” May isang lugar sa Chicago na ang tawag ay Oliver Milton’s Park. Ito ay ipinangalan sa isang sundalo na dinapaan ang isang granada upang mailigtas ang kanyang mga kasama sa tiyak na kamatayan. Ang tunay na nagmamahal ay inuuna ang kapakanan ng iba bago ang sarili. Nangangahulugan ito ng pagbibigay ng sariling oras, kakayahan, karunungan, at kahit kayamanan sa mga taong nangangailangan. Wala sa diksiyonaryo ng taong nagmamahal ang katagang: “Wala akong pakialam!” Ang ikalawang katangian ng pag-ibig ay ang kakayahang magmahal sa lahat na walang itinatangi. May kuwento ng isang sundalong sumulat sa kanyang mga magulang na uuwi na siya at may dadalhin siyang isang kaibigang sundalo na makikitira sa kanilang bahay. Ipinaliwanag niya na ang sundalo ay walang dalawang paa sapagkat nasabugan ito ng landmine sa kasagsagan ng giyera. Ayaw pumayag ng mga magulang at sinabing wag na lang sapagkat magiging pabigat lamang ang taong ito sa kanila. Iyon na ang huling pag-uusap nila. Paglipas ng ilang taon nagkita muli sila sa isang morgue nang mabslitaan nilang namatay ang kanilang anak sa isang aksidente at gayun na lamang ang pagkagulat nila ng makitang ang kanilang anak ay walang dalawang paa. Ang pagmamahal na walang itinatangi ay nangangahulugan ng pagtanggap sa ating kapwa ng walang kundisyon. Katulad ito ng ipinakita ni Jesus ng nag-alay siya ng kanyang buhay para sa atin lalo na sa ating mga makasalanan. Hindi Niya tiningnan ang ating depekto o pagkukulang, maging ang kapangitan bilang tao dala ng ating patuloy na pagkakasala. Ang kaligtasang ibinigay sa atin ni Jesus sa pamamagitan ng pag-aalay ng kanyang buhay ay para sa lahat ng tao: ano man ang relihiyon, lahi, kultura, kasarian, pag-uugali niyang taglay. Dapat ang ating pagmamahal ay gayun din. Kalimitan, kinasusuklaman natin ang ating kaaway at malambing lamang tayo sa ating mga kaibigan. Ngunit hindi ito ang gawi ng Panginoon. Ang Panginoon ay nagpakita ng habag at pagmamahal sa mga taong hindi kaibig-ibig, sa mga taong makasalanan. Sana tayo rin ay kayang maghanap sa mga taong hindi nabibigyang pansin, sa mga kapus-palad, sa mga naliligaw ng landas, sa mga kapos sa pagmamahal. Kung susundi lamang natin ang sinabi ni Jesus mahigit 2,000 taon na ang nakakaraan, ay siguradong mababawasan ang pagkasuklam at pagkagalit sa isa’t isa. Ito pa rin ang mensaheng nais niyang iparating sa atin: “Mag-ibigan kayo tulad ng pag-ibig na ipinakita ko sa inyo!” isang pag-ibig na hindi makasarili, isang pag-ibig na nakatuon sa lahat, isang pag-ibig na handang mag-alay ng kanyang sarili para sa kanyang kaibigan. Ito ang pag-ibig na ipinamalas ng Diyos sa atin… isang dakilang pag-ibig!

http://kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/2012/05/dakilang-pag-ibig-reflection-for-6th.html

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See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

Back to: Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

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