Fr. Siby Kuriakose, Kavattu CMI, St. Charles Lwanga Major Seminary
Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year – C, (15th May, 2022)
“Love one another, as I have loved you”.
Today, the fifth Sunday of Easter, the Liturgy of the Word invites us to reflect upon a ‘new community – the Church’, a ‘new world – the Kingdom of God’ and a ‘new commandment – love one another, as Jesus has loved us’. The Risen Lord opens a new ‘door of faith’ (porta fidei) in the life of those who listen to His Word and those who believe in Him and their life will be permeated with love of God and love of the neighbour, which is expressed in concrete acts of openness and acceptance of new realities, charity towards all and above all loving both friends and enemies with the quality of forgiveness.
The first reading (Acts 14:21b-27) gives testimony to the beginning of a new community of believers through the ministry of the Apostles. The new community (the Church) is the work of the Holy Spirit, who opened the door of faith to the gentiles and the Apostles were enabled to accept the gentiles into the fold of the redeemed. It is God, who gives the gift of faith to anyone and His ministers are instruments in the hands of God to inspire and initiate people to faith and thus to form new communities of believers who love one another. Openness to novelty is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which enhances growth and fruitification, whereas narrow mindedness keeps a person in darkness and closed to new realities.
The second reading (Rev 21:1-5a) presents God, who makes all things new by His indwelling presence. The new heaven and a new earth abound with love, life, beauty and peace where there is no more death, mourning or pain. This apocalyptic vision of the establishment of the ‘new world’ (the Kingdom of God) is the aftermath of the salvific suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, which is experienced today in the Church, through the sacraments and which will be perfected gloriously in the Second Coming of Jesus.
The Gospel (Jn 13:31-33a.34-35) offers Jesus’ teaching of the new commandment: “Love one another, as I have loved you”. During the last supper with his disciples, before his passion, Jesus gave his disciples, only one commandment – his last testament: ‘Love one another’, and thus He made the commandment of love, the heart of Christian message. Love makes ‘all things new’ and reveals the true face of God. Love is the norm to understand whether a person is truly risen to new life with Christ or he/she remains in the darkness of fear and sin. The old commandment was to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Lev 19:18). But the new commandment is to love everyone, both neighbours and strangers, friends as well as enemies. It is a new commandment because it is based on the commandment of Christ, who is the fulfilment of the ‘Law and Prophets’ and when one keeps this commandment, he/she enters into communion with Christ. Jesus gives himself to his disciples – and this is an absolute novelty – a measure of love. Jesus is the measure of love, the way he loves is the mode of love that should be followed by his disciples and those who believe in Him.
Love is certainly an act of will, but there is more; love is above all a gift, which one can give only if he/she possesses it. Christian love is also a response; a response to the love of God, manifested in Christ and actualized in loving God and one another. This response becomes meaningful and fruitful in concrete gestures of love such as in sharing and forgiving. God loves us and makes us capable of loving, indeed, he commands us to love and we can do it! Not because we are capable and coherent, but because we are disciples of love, that Jesus comes to meet us, helps us, forgives us. How beautiful it is to have the courage to spend one’s life for the Gospel, for love. We should not be hesitant or afraid of loving, sharing and forgiving, because love is the way to glory, the life of the resurrection!
Jesus’ invitation to love one another as he has loved, is always assisted by his grace received in the celebration of the sacraments. When a person decides to love, to share and to forgive the baptismal commitment is renewed in his/her life. A renewal that invests one’s being and actions to the extent that one’s relationship with the Lord grows. The novelty of this commandment lays also in its fruitfulness, which has both an ‘already’ and a ‘not yet’ aspect, that is while one awaits it in hope and gratitude, he/she can already experience it in advance in the sacramental celebrations, which enables one to love one another as Jesus has loved. By the indwelling of the Risen Lord in a person and in his/her community, the new commandment is taking concrete forms and shapes, where the growth in faith, hope and charity happens and the believer(s) enter into the state of perfect love.
This is the revolution that Jesus envisages to be present in His Kingdom, in which the only law is the law of love. In this month of May, let us learn from Blessed Virgin Mary the art of love. Mary knows the art of loving like no other, who is invoked as the ‘Mother of God’ and she rejoices in her children who love each other.