Sixth Sunday of Easter – Year A


Paul W. Galetto O.S.A. 
Blessed Stephen Bellesini Friary
Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
1 Pt 3:15-18
Jn 14:15-21

The signs of the times are face masks, gloves, shields, social distancing, lines on the floor every six feet, plexiglass partitions, isolation, quarantines, Zoom, Teams, Portals, separation and aloneness.

I am sure many of us (if not all of us) have been moved when we see or hear of elderly spouses who cannot be with their loved one as they are dying in a nursing home or hospital. We feel for the grandparents that cannot hug or be with their grandchildren because they are afraid of passing the virus. We understand how horrible it must be for those who are stuck in other countries or places and cannot return home; their sense of separation must be profound. The experience of these last few months has certainly given us a longing for handshakes and hugs. Did we ever think we would miss traffic jams or the hunt for a parking space at a crowded mall? Our world as we knew it is in upheaval. What is it that we miss the most? Maybe we miss routine the most; generally, we all like predictability. We also like the predictable break from predictability that we call the weekend. Routine can be comfortable. Routine frees our brain and our spirit so that we do not have to create each day new again. We can put our energies into being creative for others.

Maybe we miss work the most (or better yet, the rituals of work). We have our workmates, our desk or station, our parking space or commuter routine. The day goes by quickly because we have work and our time is consumed. We love work because we have a mission and we accomplish it and it gives meaning to our lives. We build relationships as we work together with others.

Maybe what we miss the most are just the rituals of everyday living: shopping, going to the gym, visiting neighbors or friends, dining out. All of these have a degree of freedom with them that we cherish and probably have taken for granted.

I believe what we really miss the most is love and its many manifestations. Love is predictable and routine; we know on whom we can depend and we do so regularly. Love is working together; one does not love alone, it always requires the other. Love is creative when people work together and make something new each day. Love is ritual; we celebrate the morning kiss, the greeting on the phone, the hug or handshake that reaffirms our love for one another. Love is the ultimate freedom; we love freely.

Today’s Gospel is all about the power of love and how absence doesn’t mean the end of love. Jesus is telling his disciples that soon they will not see him again. It has been great while they were all together walking the hills of Galilee or the streets of Jerusalem. They had moments of joy and moments of challenge and through it all they developed bonds that were life sustaining. Jesus tells them that now is the time to move on, to grow up, to change, to adapt, to think about the future and to not live in the past; but also to never forget the love.

Jesus tells us, “I will not leave you orphans…. I live and you will live.” Separation need not be the end of the road; it is a time of transition. We experience those from whom we are separated in a new way. We know that we do not have to be physically with them to feel the effect of their love in our lives. When you have been loved by someone and you have loved that person in return, they remain in you and you in them. Love is not diminished by distance or isolation; in fact, it is made more profound.

I was always perplexed by the line in today’s Gospel: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you.” What is Jesus trying to say? This pandemic has helped me understand the meaning of these words; since I have been loved by the Father and Jesus and I have loved them, that love will be with me forever. Jesus came so that we might know love in a flesh and blood manner. While I certainly wish I could have seen and known Jesus, it is much more important that I know of the love that he had for each of us. Even though there is distance and separation there is still love. Even though we cannot kiss and hug as we would like, there is still love. Even though we cannot be present to celebrate and party, there is still love. And this love will last until we are together again and when that reunion happens a love that was sustaining will become life-giving and synonymous with our very being.

Thomas Bayly put it best when he wrote in his poem Isle of Beauty (1844), “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” These timeless words describe our situation during this time of crisis in our lives. Jesus did not have to remain on earth for us to love Him and the Father. We do not have to be physically present with our family and friends to know of their love for us. This love sustains us in the meantime.

The words in today’s Gospel are consolation for us; while we cannot be physically present with one another, let us continue to love. Love will overcome loneliness. Love will overcome pain. Love will overcome a pandemic. “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Someday soon the isolation will end and the quarantine will be over; it will be our time of transition, of moving on. It will be time to return to love in full. I recently heard a talk about hospice care and the speaker said before you die make sure you love ferociously because only then can you give beauty and meaning to life. In our new ordinary, let us make sure to love ferociously.

In the new signs for our new times, masks will be replaced by smiles, gloves by handshakes, shields by embraces, aloneness by coming together and when we do all of these, let us do so ferociously so that should another time of separation come our way we will be sustained by a love that has given beauty and meaning to our lives much like the love of the Father and Jesus for us.