Fifth Sunday of Easter
First reading: Acts 14:21-27
Responsorial Psalm: 145: 8-13
Second reading: Rv 21:1-5
Gospel: Jn 13:31-35
By Jem Sullivan | Catholic News Service
The award-winning movie, “The Mission,” tells the compelling story of two Jesuit missionaries, Rodrigo Mendoza, a former slave trader, and Father Gabriel, who live with the Guaraní, a remote South American tribe.
The story centers on the 18th-century dispute between the church and the nations of Spain and Portugal who were seeking to colonize the land and natives while expelling the Jesuits from the mission territories there.
As the Spanish and Portuguese advance, Rodrigo chooses to fight with the people while Father Gabriel chooses the path of nonviolence. In one of many dramatic scenes, Father Gabriel asks Rodrigo to reconsider his use of violence to defend the natives.
When Rodrigo seeks to renounce his vow of obedience, Father Gabriel challenges him saying, “If you die with blood on your hands, Rodrigo, you will betray everything we have done. You promised your life to God, and God is love!”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples, and us, a new commandment saying, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” We love because God is love! We are created in and for love! Jesus’ command of love is so central to Christian faith that it identifies Jesus’ followers everywhere and for all time. As Jesus says, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
For Christians, love is not an abstract theory or political buzzword. The love of Christians is inseparable from the truth of God. The origin of Christian love is God’s love poured out on the world in Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
All Christian beliefs, sacraments, commandments and prayers take on their fullest meaning only in the order of love of God and love of neighbor. Love strengthens a Christian for selfless service of others to the point of suffering and even martyrdom for faith.
In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas reminds the early Christians that “it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Love is a divine force behind the willing acceptance of suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Strengthened by love of God, expressed in love of neighbor, every disciple of Jesus joins in the hymn of the psalmist who sings, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.”
God desires to renew our lives every day, as we hear in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.” We are given the strength each day to love as God loves in the promise: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.”
The word of God invites us to become living reflections of God’s love to those around us in need of love. In our daily witness to love as Jesus loved us, we pray with hope, “speak to me, Lord.”
How are you called to reflect the love of Jesus to those around you?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.