6th Sunday of Easter – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“God Reveals Himself To His Friends As Love.”
The First reading reflects that God has no favourites, shows no partiality and blesses whoever practices justice.
The Second Reading tells us that the decision to love is not ours, it is God’s. So ‘everyone who loves is from God and knows God,’ even if they are not our kind of people or share our faith.
The Gospel Reading continues this theme by Jesus reminding all the disciples and us, “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you.” We are ‘friends’ because he has revealed to us the plan of the Father and calls on us all to cooperate in the realization of this plan.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48.
The first followers of Jesus were, like Jesus, observant Jews. A naturally closed and wary community (for very good historical reasons), they could not imagine that God was interested in the life and times of non-Jews. Those who accepted the message of Jesus were also mostly convinced that what he said and did was for them. The Gentile world had no share in it.
Some were willing to consider that Jesus could be a phenomenon for non-Jews. But those who became Christians had to become Jews as well, circumcision, law and all. Paul spent his entire ministry fighting this mentality, arguing that Gentile Christians were under no obligation to become Jews.
In the past a Jew was strictly forbidden to enter the house of a pagan; thus the first Christians, all of Jewish origin, were not so sure that God wanted salvation to be brought to the pagans.
Peter is in Jaffa, and the Lord invites him to go to Caesarea and enter the house of a pagan without fear of contamination. The description of the baptism of Cornelius, the commander of the Roman garrison in Caesarea, is the reply to these doubts. All men and women are pure in front of God.
The descent of the Spirit on the pagans even before their baptism showed them the irresistible freedom and universality of the love of God. God intervened to show Peter that there are no favourite people and that there are no pure and impure people, but “anybody of any nationality who fears him (God) and does what is right are acceptable to him”.
What about our communities? Don’t we keep making distinctions? Are all people treated equally, regardless of their race, colour, tribe, culture, education and money? Do we also accept those whose opinion is different from ours? Do we still go on distinguishing between the “good” (those who never make mistakes, or those who hide their mistakes better than others) the “wicked” (those who make many mistakes and find it difficult to recover and feel a greater need to be accepted and not condemned).
God’s love is based on choice: he loves because he chooses to love. The supreme example of that is in his Word, Jesus. If the supreme act of love is to lay down your life for the sake of others, Jesus shows that he could have no greater love. His love for us takes Jesus to the Cross, just as the Father’s love raises him up for our redemption.
The Psalm celebrates not only the truth and love God shows to Israel (Ex. 34:6). But also the salvation that he offers to all nations (Is. 52:10). It is a song that Cornelius would have gladly sung.
1 John 4:7-10.
The best reason to give someone who wonders why we should not shun certain categories of persons is that the decision to love is not ours, it is God’s, and if we love God we need to carry out his will. Even more significant is that we are not loved because we are acceptable to God. ‘God loves us, and that makes us acceptable.’ Any deed that is done out of love comes from God, and there is no love apart from God.
So “everyone who loves is from God and knows God,” even if they are not our kind of people. Jesus in his short three years of ministry was not about to waste time rounding up those who were already doing God’s will. He spends a surprising amount of time preaching to and against the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew that converting even one of them was a victory of major proportions, since the damage each of these teachers could inflict on the populace was so great.
“Everyone who loves is a child of God”. We, his children, should be like him and love, as he loves. It is necessary that we do good even to those who do us evil, because He “causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as on the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike” (Mt. 5:45).
For many of us the Commandments of God coincide with the “Ten Words” entrusted by God to Moses. But the rabbis, after a careful examination of the Bible and tradition, established that the commandments of God were not 10 but 613, and as if these were not enough, they had drawn from them a myriad of other norms, prohibitions, etc., all binding and making life almost impossible.
On reading the Gospels, we get the impression that Jesus held all these additional commandments as ‘too many, too oppressive, and unbearable’. One day when asked to list the most important commandments to achieve eternal life, he refers to the Decalogue, but only mentions the 6 norms that regulate relations with humans. On another day, he states that the most important commandment of all is the ‘law of love of God and of neighbour’. Finally Jesus adds his own commandment, “That you love one another as I have loved you”. Jesus is telling us that loving God and our neighbour is thus the very basis of evangelisation.
Evangelisation means enabling the Good News to sink into every fibre of our being, a process that continues for our whole lives. In loving concern we must go out to others so that they, too, will benefit from this Good News. At the same time it means going out and bearing fruit. Jesus continues to show us how to do this in active and concrete ways. In the first part of John chapter 15, the key message was that we should remain in Jesus and so the word ‘remain’ was repeated. In today’s reading, the second part, the word ‘love’ is used several times to show its importance.
Jesus now spells out what is meant by remaining in him. For us to remain in Jesus there must be no element of self-centeredness; it must be a reaching out to others in real gratuitous love. The central idea of his discourse is very clear: “to bear fruit” is the same as “to love”. Jesus loves his disciples as his Father has loved him and, in their turn, the disciples must love their brothers and sisters as Jesus loved them. For Christians this love is not optional. It is given as a commandment (Jn 15:10; 12; 14; 17).
This commandment however is not a burden that is imposed as a person would impose on a slave. It is based on a relationship between friends (Jn. 15:13-15). This relationship of love that Jesus offers us invites us to be part of what goes beyond human attraction or affection.
The parable of the ‘Good Shepherd’ has already emphasized that in the relationship of love between the shepherd and his sheep, both know each other and the good shepherd is prepared to give up his life for his sheep. As Jesus draws closer to his hour of ‘glorification’, we are told that “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1).
Jesus the Master washing the feet of his disciples becomes an example of love in action. The love Jesus lives and asks his disciples and us to live is radical, concrete and without limit. Love is really love when it becomes humble service and putting others before your needs.
Jesus offers his disciples his love, joy and friendship, all this only hours before he is to die. The depth of that love will soon be revealed on the Cross. The intensity of that joy will be felt when they see him again, and as he breathes over them the gift of his Spirit. The meaning of his love and friendship will be made known in the unfolding of the years, in the companionship of the Spirit, which remains with us all until the end of time.
The disciples and us have to go from theory into action, from talking to doing. As we near the end of Eastertide and prepare for the great cycle of feasts from Ascension through Pentecost to Corpus Christi, we might pause to ask whether we can truly go out and bear fruit in today’s world. Can we?
Polarization continues to divide Christians and is often a scandal to authentic witness. Without the deep experience of the self-emptying love of Christ, who summons us all to be ‘One’, withered branches will continue to blight the ‘Vine’.
The call to follow Jesus comes from Jesus himself, his compelling life, his passionate death, his startling call to new life in the kingdom. Whether we heed his call and “go forth and bear fruit,” is up to us.
Evangelisation is Dynamite! An explosive force that is meant to disrupt evil and to transform human lives; and we are the ones chosen to light the fuse.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … The First Reading reminds us of the ‘universality’ of the love of God. Is love for our ‘neighbour’ selective and reserved for some only? Do we treat all people equally?
Mon. … God’s Love is based on ‘Choice’: He loves because He chooses to love. His love for us is not based on our merits. Likewise our love for neighbour must not be based on his/her merits, but on our conscious effort to love in a gratuitous manner without expecting any return. If God loved only those of us who truly loved him, we would be in serious trouble!
Tues. … It is not our decision to love others; it is God’s will. Jesus showed us the ‘supreme act of love’ by laying down his life for the redemption of all humanity. Reflect on some of the ‘sacrifices of love’ you have made for the sake of others and recall the warm feeling of true joy that love brings.
Wed. … Jesus spent a great deal of time and effort to convert those who were against him and his teachings. This act of service was also an act of gratuitous love. How far do we persevere with those who dislike us and wish to do us harm or even kill us? Do we even give them a second chance?
Thurs. … The relationship of love that Jesus offers us goes beyond what we humans can understand. Jesus gave his disciples and us a living example of a ‘relationship of love’ by his own life of self-sacrifice and humble service to others. The depth of that love was revealed on the Cross. What is the
depth of your love for others?
Frid. … To “bear fruit” is the same as “to love” in God’s eyes. We may wonder how we may go out and love others and bear fruit in a world where polarization and conflict continues to divide the many different Christian Churches. We need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus want”? Jesus wants unity in his Church and our self-emptying love will ‘bear the fruit’ of uniting his Church and the world in the new bond of the ‘kingdom of God’.
Sat. … We who call ourselves Christians need to go from theory into action. Our world is hurting and is crying out for love and new life. The call to follow Jesus is made to us each Sunday in Jesus’ message of love to us in his Gospel. Whether we heed his call and “go forth and love and bear fruit” is up to us. ‘It is however the most important choice that we ever will need to make’.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, love begins in You; love is shown in the Son, sent to redeem us; love is given to us in the Spirit dwelling within us. We pray that the energy of divine love that is planted like a seed within us will mature and grow to produce the ‘fruit’ that will express itself in charity, self-sacrifice and humble service towards others.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.