Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; John 15:9-17
The Vine and the Branches
OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from 365 Days with the Lord
JESUS said to His disciples, “As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. 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 may be in you and your joy may be complete. 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.”
2007 In today’s first reading, which describes how the apostle Matthias was chosen to replace the apostle Judas after the latter’s suicide, we are told that the 12 disciples of Jesus assembled for the purpose of choosing another 12th apostle were in fact looking for a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. In other words, the basic function of an apostle is to act as a witness would act in a court of law: To report only one’s own personal experience, not something learned from hearsay. One could not be chosen to be an apostle if one only knew about Jesus, namely, from hearsay. One could be chosen to be an apostle only if one had known Jesus personally. This essential qualification of the apostle is spelled out very clearly in our text. As Peter says, the one chosen must be “one of those who was in our company while the Lord Jesus moved among us, from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us.”
At this point we can ask ourselves why it was so important to replace Judas by another twelfth apostle. Obviously, the idea was to round off to twelve the original number of apostles chosen by Jesus and which the defection of Judas had reduced to eleven. But, then, the next question to ask is why Jesus had chosen 12 apostles in the first place instead of 10 or 15 or any other number. Here Jesus Himself answered this question, at least indirectly, when He once declared to His apostles: “In the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28; cf. also Lk 22:30). Here Jesus clearly established a connection between the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Just as ancient Israel was founded on the twelve sons of Jacob who were believed to be at the origin of the twelve tribes constituting the nation, so also the Church founded by Jesus on Peter – the Rock and on the other apostles chosen by Him was meant to be a reconstituted Israel, the “Israel of God.”
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328
2008 Jesus’ farewell discourse is patterned after that of the great Jewish leader Moses. Moses’ last words stressed the importance of the commandments, and Jesus’ last words alluded to His new commandment: Love. Today’s passage gives the way in which we can remain alive, grow, and be fruitful: That is, to remain in Jesus’ love (v. 10).
We love what’s good; God’s love is what makes goodness. The truest, best, and most beautiful love in the world is God’s. People wear dark glasses to accustom themselves to the sun’s brightness. It’s like that when we look at God’s love. Human beings are called to imitate God’s love. Modern medicine shows a connection between heart diseases and disorders in love.
The result of following His advice, says Jesus, will be joy (v. 11): His unique joy that will come our way, more fulfilling than any other and with a new completeness. There’s a difference between joy and such things as happiness, beatitude, pleasure, and delight.
Happiness is the generic term – as we have when meeting a friend whom we haven’t seen in years. Beatitude denotes intense happiness, usually with more elevated connotations – as what springs from purity of heart. Pleasure strongly implies a feeling of satisfaction, like an infant having food and warmth; it often implies positive gladness. Delight carries a stronger implication of liveliness in the satisfaction induced, often suggesting a less enduring emotion than pleasure, as we might have in reading a good novel or in eating a delicious meal.
Joy is often the preferred term when a deep-rooted, rapturous emotion is implied. Jesus’ new and peerless joy that will come our way is more fulfilling than any other and with a new completeness. A joyless Christian is a contradiction in terms.
SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328
2009 Friends: To be a disciple is to be a friend. To be a disciple is to follow and learn from a master. Where the master goes, there the disciple will go. What the master does, the disciple will do, too. If a disciple faithfully follows the master, he will do what the master has taught him, and he will be where the master is.
Jesus’ relationship with his disciples is a sharing of intimate union of life. He entrusts his love and his ministry to them as a sharing of his very self. He shows them that discipleship is basically friendship with him and with his Father. By calling them friends, Jesus the Master transforms them from mere disciples into those to whom he has revealed the Father’s love and all that he himself has learned from the Father. True, there is much that they are not yet able to grasp (Jn 16:12), yet the disciples will learn because of what Jesus has told them. They, in turn, must follow the ways of the Lord.
2009 Love is the answer
People reject or break away from the Church for various reasons. Men and women who say they believe in God or even in Christ reject the institutional Church because of what they see as too many trappings of power among Church leaders. Or because of lack of charity among the Catholics they know. Others are drawn to groups or sects that seem to have the community life and brotherhood that they have not found in the Church’s institutions or organizations.
While faith or religion expresses itself in liturgical ceremonies, teachings, organizations, and prayers, what gives it “credibility” is love that is practiced by its adherents. This is more so of the Christian faith. Charity is its distinctive mark—and that by which the Christian is judged. This is emphasized by Jesus in today’s Gospel. He gives his disciples his commandment: “Love one another as I love you.” He referred to it earlier as a “new commandment,” the way people would know if the disciples were indeed his very own (Jn 13:34-35).
What is this love which Jesus speaks about? Is this the sentimental kind that turns the world around, that is celebrated by poets and musicians, the perennial source of themes for movies, the kind that breaks hearts and even lives?
Although experienced on the human level, Christian love is first and foremost rooted in God. “Love is of God” (Second Reading). It is a free gift of God, given to human beings who do not deserve it. The proof of this is that God sent his only Son into the world “as expiation for our sins”—even when we were still sinners.
The Son of God in turn expresses this overflowing love of the Father. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” In concrete, Jesus shows his love “to the very end,” holding nothing back. At the Last Supper, he who is “Teacher and Lord” humbles himself and washes his disciples’ feet. This is a parabolic action, the symbol and anticipation of his “self-emptying” on the cross on Calvary.
The measure of this love is the love of Jesus. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34). The measure therefore is “having no measure at all,” for the love of Jesus is without limit. In concrete terms, it means loving not only those who love us but also our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, praying for those who mistreat us (see Lk 6:27).
Historians often wonder how the Christian movement could spread so rapidly in the pagan Roman empire, eventually replacing its “civilization.” The Christians belonged mostly to the lower rungs of society. They were seen as a dangerous sect, even branded as enemies of the human race. But charity was their distinctive mark. Charity was also the weapon that silenced their critics and won over their detractors. “See how they love one another,” was a constant refrain heard from those who observed them.
Charity was the program that launched us into the new millennium. We are to witness to love, to strive for communion (koinonia) which is the fruit and demonstration of that love. Let us strive to make the Church the home and school of communion, if we wish to respond to the world’s deepest yearnings (Novo Millennio Ineunte, nos. 42-43).
2010 THE NEW COMMANDMENT
At the Last Supper, after washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus lays down a new commandment: that the disciples love one another. This is already a fundamental rule of life in the Old Testament. God commands: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart… You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:17). Love was also held as an ideal in pagan antiquity, whether in the general sense of philanthropy, or in the political sense of solidarity. Jesus himself says that pagans love their neighbors and those who do good to them (Mt 5:47).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches the disciples to love their enemies: those who are outside their circle, those who are non-Israelites, even those who persecute them (Mt 5:43-47). In the Gospel, the focus is the disciples: that they love one another and what they, in their mutual relations, can and should mean to outsiders, to the world: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The newness of the Christian love-commandment is thus seen in its degree or intensity and its scope that includes “nonfriends” or outsiders. It is also to be found in the context and spirit with which the commandment is given: intimacy, service, mutual knowledge, giving of life. These are the characteristics of the “new covenant” that is established at the Last Supper. These are the characteristics of the love of Jesus who is the measure of this love-commandment: “As I have loved you, so also you should love one another.” By their mutual love and service, the disciples evoke the image of Jesus in his self-sacrificial love for all, including sinners and outsiders.
2012 I have called you friends. Slaves merely follow orders. Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, are informed not only of his commandments but also of his intentions. When Jesus says, “I no longer call you slaves,” he does not mean that he has called the disciples slaves. He implies that the time has come to disclose to them the meaning of his ministry and of his impending passion and death. One speaks to one’s friends of hopes and plans. Jesus speaks not of his own hopes and plans, but those of the Father’s.
A loving obedience to his commandments characterizes Jesus’ friends. In contrast, slaves are blindly obedient to their masters out of fear of punishment. By obeying Jesus’ commandments, the disciples show their love for him and for one another. Jesus himself is obedient to the Father because he loves the Father. He glorifies the Father by accomplishing the work that he has given him to do. This must now be the disciples’ concern. The love of the Father made known by Jesus and shared with his disciples bears fruit in their self-giving love for one another.
Do you obey God’s commandments blindly like a slave or lovingly like a child or a friend?
2012 Love one another as I love you. United with Jesus in baptism, we keep his commandment to love in the same way he loves us. We must share with others his love for us.
How do we love?
To express the word “love,” we use the numbers “143,” meaning “I love you.” Pursuing this play with numbers, we can come up with three types of love.
First is 143-2. It means “I love you… if.” It is the conditional kind, love with strings attached, love given in exchange of and expecting a return. We love a person hoping to get luxury, fame, glory, comfort, or material security.
Second is 143-7. This is “I love you… because.” It is love based on attraction or admiration, on likes and dislikes. A person is loved because of physical appearance or social status or material possessions. It is love out of gratitude.
Third is 143-9. It is “I love you… in spite of.” This is love for who and what a person is. God loves us in spite of our mistakes, in spite of our sins, and in spite of our infidelity. God loves us for what we are and whoever we are. God’s love is not selective or exclusive. God loves all, sinners and saints alike.
How do we love God? And how do we love our fellow men and women?
2013 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Jesus assures his disciples of his love and exhorts them to remain in his love. He tells them this so that his joy may be in them, and their joy may be complete.
The joy of the disciples, however, will be complete only if they love one another as Christ has loved them, if they continue to circulate to each other the love of Jesus which they have received.
The love of Jesus for his disciples is the love of a friend. Friendship is mutual and manifest love. Jesus manifests his love by laying down his life for his disciples. He wants us also to love each other as friends, willing to lay down our life for each other. This is the Church—the community of Jesus’ friends.
Is your family, basic ecclesial community, or parish a community of friends?
2014 You are my friends if you do what I command you. True love is in mutually giving and forgiving. This is the kind of life that Jesus wants to give us. He tells us that his love for us has its origin in the love that his Father has for him. Love is the essence of God. And Jesus takes this as a model of his love for us.
The love of Jesus for us is both creative and transformative. Solomon refers to the Son of God as the Incarnate Wisdom which “renews everything while herself perduring; passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets” (Wis 7:27). Jesus’ love makes us able in turn to love with his love and thereby transforming us. Pope Gregory the Great looks into this realization as a “passage from being a friend (amicus) towards becoming a guardian of soul (animi custos)” (cf Michael Fallon, MSC, The Gospel according to John, p. 274).
“I have loved my friends, as I do virtue, my soul, my God” (Sir Thomas Browne).
2016 LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I LOVE YOU. This simple sentence is one of the most difficult commands Jesus has given us, if not THE most difficult commandment. To love our enemies is already extremely difficult, and we experience again and again that it seems almost impossible to love our enemies. But even more difficult is what Jesus asks in the Gospel. Why? Because here Jesus makes us aware of his love for us: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In other words, a love like that of Jesus may require us to die for somebody, even for an enemy. Jesus is not just speaking beautiful words and making nearly impossible demands. He lives what he says and what he demands. A few hours after this giving of the commandment at the Last Supper, he offers his life on the Cross for us sinners. When I stood in 2012 on St. Peter’s Square in Rome, attending the canonization of Pedro Calungsod, I was reminded of this command of Jesus and realized that it is possible to put it into practice. If a teenager was able to do it, why not I?
“Only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7-8).
SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328
2018 I have called you friends
Jesus considers the people close to him friends. They belong to his inner circle. They have stood by him. They have shown interest in his teachings. They may not be the most intelligent or most religious people in society, but Jesus holds them dear. They are his intimate friends. Jesus will show his intimate love for them by laying down his life for them.
On the part of the apostles, as friends of Jesus, they have to love one another. The love they have been enjoying since they followed Jesus must be lived among themselves as a community. They should show mature and reciprocal love for one another. They are all adults and have been trained day and night to love. Among the people, they are the ones who know Jesus best, his mind and his heart. They can represent him best. Soon they will be sent to evangelize.
In the First Reading, we see Peter in the house of Cornelius, a pagan. He is sent there to evangelize. Through his preaching, the whole household responds to God’s grace. They become followers of Christ. They even receive the Holy Spirit before their baptism. Peter concludes that God loves all people. God does not play favorites. The friendship of Jesus extends to all.
The Second Reading backs up the theme of love in the Gospel. It repeats the reciprocal element of love. Love is fostered in the community. Without love in their relationships, people will never know God.
* * *
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2018,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328
2018 Love one another
The words may sound romantic, charged with positive energy. This commandment, however, summarizes what Jesus wants from his disciples who have been trying to understand his teachings since he called them. Before he ascends into heaven, Jesus leaves them not a wishy-washy cliché, but rather a tall order: to love one another. Jesus is addressing himself to adults, not to children. Taking the whole context, we discern what Jesus means by loving one another and how the disciples will reciprocate with one another. Soon they will be sent, powered by the Holy Spirit.
The commandment of love is a question of how they will relate to one another, not how they will design programs that are impersonal. To go on mission as apostles is to be able to give support to one another, if needed, to die for their fellow apostles.
It is not only Jesus who lays down his life. He sets a precedent. They must follow his example; they will give their own lives as well. The apostles should find it easy to follow because Jesus has revealed everything to them as his friends. The commandment should be easy to remember because it is his last will and testament. The Holy Spirit is with them to help them live it.
* * *
Are you a friend of Jesus willing to keep his commandment of love?
* * *
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328
See Today’s Readings: Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
Back to: Saints and Solemnities
Back to St. Matthias
Back to Other Homily Sources