Sixth Sunday of Easter – Year B

J. Thomas Pohto, O.S.A.
Church of Our Mother of Good Counsel
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
1 Jn 4:7-10
Jn 15:9-17

We are all familiar with the Creation Story that God created human beings on the sixth day and God created human beings in God’s image and likeness. What is this image and likeness? We see in today’s second reading from the First Letter of John that God is love. That means we are made for loving: to be loved and to love. It is not difficult for us to recognize real love, even though Hollywood and some greeting cards may go overboard on emotions and sentimentality.

Today we celebrate Mother’s Day, and we usually pause for a moment for family reflections. When I was really young—certainly not more than five or six years old—I remember looking at some photographs of my parents on vacation before I was born. I realized that they had not been on a vacation since I was born, and this was because they had to stick around to take care of my sister and me. I saw all those wonderful pictures of far-away exotic vacation spots in Life magazine and National Geographic, such beautiful places as Michigan and Indiana (I grew up in Ohio). And I realized that my mother and dad could not go there because they had to stay home to take care of me. That was quite a revelation! I knew something very special was happening.

In the Gospel Jesus said: “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.” We think of God’s love when Jesus gave up his life on the Cross to save us. And it may seem trivial merely to give up a vacation or many vacations to care for a person, but my mother and dad gave up part of their lives so that I could have a life. And as a youngster I was able to recognize how special that was. I can say today that it was love and it was Godly. Haven’t you had such experiences?

Laying down one’s life for one’s friends is one part of the definition of love in the Bible. Jesus also says in the Gospel: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” We are able to love because we have been loved. The second reading says: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” We each have love to give away because we have been loved first. Happiness comes in giving away such great things we have received as a gift, such as love. “This I command you: love one another” Jesus reminds us in the Gospel.

The second reading also extends the definition of love: “…everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” We can all read a hundred books and listen to a hundred speakers about God and still be pretty ignorant about God. To know God we need to encounter God, because to really know God we have to enter into God’s world and experience God. And this happens when we love—when we love other people and love God. Because when we give up something important of ours for another, when we lay down our life in some way for another, we are moving into God’s realm and can experience at least a little of what God is like, like what happens when you willingly give up a vacation to take care of kids. We learn that Godliness is filled with love.

There are two more considerations here. First: real love always has a cost. Warm feelings, emotions, sentimentality are not of the essence of love. Real love involves giving something away that is dear to us, and giving it to another person because that person is dear to us. The cost might be a vacation, or your time, or your money or even your life or some other precious thing. It might even cost you your popularity or your reputation as, for example, when you stand against emotionally charged things like racism.

Which leads us to the other consideration about love: it always seeks the good of the other person. Jesus said: “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.” God gives us these Commandments to help us focus on what is good.

So, loving fulfills what we have been created to do as human beings. We can love because we have been loved first. Love fulfills the Commandments. When we love, we move into the realm of God, and we get to know God as God really is. Because God is love.