Fifth Sunday of Easter April 24, 2016
Reading 1 Acts 14:21-27
- Alleluia. R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God. Reading 2 Rev 21:1-5a
Alleluia Jn 13:34
Gospel Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
Homily— April 23 & 24, 2016
Picture Jesus at the Last Supper with the disciples. Now picture Judas rushing off in the middle of the meal. Judas leaving Jesus and the disciples is not a good sight. Jesus now addresses the disciples with great tenderness as he says “my children”. It is like a parent addressing their children for the last time before their death. Jesus says I won’t be around much longer.
When we love someone very much, any leave-taking always brings sadness. Leave-taking is part of everyone’s life. Think of the emotion we feel when a friend, relative or spouse leaves for a tour of duty as a soldier in a foreign land. Some of those graduating this year may never see some of their classmates again. Some of our friends or relatives may move across the country. It reminds us that we human beings are fragile, that our earthly life is transitory, that the only sure and permanent reality is the abiding love of the risen Lord and the glory that is the outcome of our living his commandment of love. This gospel is about leave-taking—one leads to betrayal and despair; the other leads to an invitation to participate in the love-Life of the One who willingly embraces death and in that embrace conquers it for himself and for us.
My mother was not very demonstrative of her love for me though I never doubted it. When I left home at the age of 20 to take a job 100 miles away I do still remember her hug and kiss. Fourteen years later I was leaving for Bolivia as a missionary not knowing when I would see my family and friends again—it would be three years before I returned for a visit. These are times when we realize how important our family and friends are to us.
Sometimes we can be amazed at our emotional response at the death of someone close to us. I remind families who are keeping vigil with a parent who is in the care of hospice that these days they are with a dying parent are indeed sacred moments to be treasured.
Jesus gives a new commandment to the disciples: to love one another. He says, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”. The new commandment was the result of what Jesus would soon do—he will lay down his very life so that we might have a share in his risen Life and glory. If our love is to imitate his, then our love must also include the willingness to lay down our lives for others. The kind of love that Jesus commands leads to self-emptying, dying to self.
Everyone can love. It is not an achievement; it is not a talent; it is not a skill; but everyone can offer it. Every act of love is complete and perfect, an example of God with us, God in us and God among us. Love has its own logic. The more it is offered and shared, the greater it becomes. Love heals the wound of sin by offering a balm of mercy and forgiveness.
In an April letter addressed to the priests of the archdiocese I saw love in action through a decision of Fr. Scott Bullock, previous pastor here. When he read in The Witness that a former parish colleague of his, Brother Stephen Markham, was suffering from kidney failure, was receiving dialysis three times a week, and was in need of a person who would be willing to serve as a donor for a kidney transplant, Fr. Scott prayerfully considered if he might be able to serve as the donor. After some initial testing to establish if he would be a compatible donor, which he was, he went on to the Mayo Clinic for more medical exams where it was determined that he was approved to be a living donor of a kidney.
Jesus, in an act of love, gave his life for us. Fr. Scott, in an act of love, is giving one of his kidneys to Brother Stephen. What are some acts of love that we can do for people around us? Perhaps it is as simple as cleaning up a park or helping a neighbor in their yard or garden. As Catholic Christians we are called to do acts of love that might be small or large.
The operation for the transplant is scheduled for June 16. Keep Brother Stephan and Fr. Scott in your thoughts and prayers. You can keep yourself updated at St. Edward’s parish website, sted.org.