Fifth Sunday of Easter – April 28

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Central Idea: If you “love one another as I have loved you,” then heaven has come down to earth. Doctrine: Christ’s New Commandment. Practical Application: Living the New Commandment.

To view the readings, click here. (Lectionary: 54)

Central Idea: If you “love one another as I have loved you,” then heaven has come down to earth

Acts 14:21-27

  • The first reading recounts the first missionary journey of the Apostles Paul and Barnabus, preaching the Gospel mostly to Gentiles.
  • It is successful because people say yes to their message.
  • First Paul and Barnabus went out and made converts. Retracing their steps, they strengthened the faith of the new churches and left elders in charge.

Ps 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13

I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

  • The prayer of the psalm is that God’s faithful will make known to the “children of Adam” God’s might and “the glorious splendor of [His] kingdom.”
  • It is good to be in a state of holiness, that is, to be in a right relationship with God. It is good now as we live on the earth in faithfulness to God’s will. And it will be even better when God’s reign in our lives is complete in the glorious splendor of his eternal kingdom.

Rev 21:1-5a

Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people.

  • Some have disparaged Christianity by calling it wish fulfillment. I don’t know what is wrong with having your wants and needs met.
  • We want God to exist. We want God to be good. We want to be with God. We want to be perfectly happy. We want to be in a perfectly beautiful place. We want to be perfectly beautiful ourselves. We want to have indestructible bodies, incapable of pain. We want there to be no more death or tears. We want to be reunited with all the people we love and to be with all who are loveable.
  • The psalm speaks of the glorious splendor of God’s kingdom and St. John gives us a glimpse of it in the new creation crowned by the New Jerusalem in which God himself will dwell with his people.
  • We tend to think of salvation in terms of us going up to heaven where God dwells. But God renewed creation when he came down to the earth in the Incarnation. In the renewal of creation of which St. John speaks, heaven will again come down to earth in the New Jerusalem, the glorious City of God on earth in which God dwells with us.

Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

  • Since the moment of the Incarnation, God the Father has glorified or honored this divine-human person, Jesus Christ. But now, the honor in which each holds the other will be proven as the Son lays down his life for the salvation of humankind.
  • This goes hand in glove with the New Commandment which Our Lord now reveals to his disciples: To love with a sacrificial love.
  • If we want to give glory to the Blessed Trinity, we just have to love one another even if it hurts.

Doctrine: Christ’s New Commandment

  • Christ reveals this New Commandment to his closest disciples at the Last Supper. This command is not “one more thing” to do. It is the one thing to do. It is the one command that sums up the two commandments (to love God and neighbor), that encompasses the Ten Commandments, that summarizes the entire moral law.
  • We are to love each other. What is the love we are talking about? It is willing the true good of another. A loving act is one which seeks to give true good to another.
  • This definition of charity may be startling if you have never thought about it before, but it is not the new part of the New Commandment. What is new is that the model for loving one another is the way Christ loved. How did he love? He laid down his life in the most painful, gruesome death. So, real love is love until it hurts. It is a sacrificial love. So the New Commandment is to love one another with a sacrificial love.
  • Like many great truths, it is hidden before you grasp it, but once you do it is totally obvious. It is what mothers and fathers do for their families, what true friends do for one another, what soldiers do for their cause, what artists do for their art.
  • This same mode of love is how Christ glorifies or gives praise or honor to his Father and how the Father is the very most pleased with his Son.
  • So we can summarize the entire moral law and the entire mode of living of a follower of Christ in this New Commandment: Love one another with a sacrificial love.
  • One might object and say, that’s masochistic. You sick people love being martyrs. No. It is just the way love is in this world. Doing the right thing for another, acting for another person’s true good is often hard because we are selfish, pleasure-seeking, weak, angry, clannish, vengeful, indifferent, and more. When you are first in love you might be willing move a mountain for the other, but as time goes on, you might only need to move a grain of sand and that seems too great a bother.
  • We might think of heaven as a place of great beauty and happiness of every kind, a place where the saints, spiritual champions, dwell. It is that. But it is really the place where love dwells.

Practical Application: Living the New Commandment

  • Because the New Commandment is sacrificial love, there are two parts to living it. The first is knowing what is the loving thing to do. Usually this is obvious and requires little or no thought. If your child is sick, you take care of him. If your elderly neighbor is struggling to carry something, you offer to help her. If you are getting up to get more coffee, you ask your spouse if she would like more. Some people are experts at making other people happy by giving of themselves.
  • However, sometimes it is actually hard to know what the right thing to do is. Should you quit your job because it is hurting your family life? Should you pick up and move somewhere else for the sake of your family? What should your profession be so you can best serve others? Or, what if a friend needs to be confronted about his behavior? How will you approach this without destroying your friendship and making things worse? So to love, we need prudence and justice. Justice is giving others what you owe them and Christ is saying we owe each other love. Prudence is sound decision-making. In this case, it tells us what love would do.
  • The second part of living the New Commandment is making the sacrifice. Doing the true good of the other will cost us a tiny amount or a great deal. This is where the virtues of temperance and fortitude are vital. Temperance is the habit by which we postpone or forgo some pleasure for a good reason. Fortitude is doing the right thing even though it might be hard or we might be afraid to. This is one reason the Church gives us forty days of Lent every year and why she asks us to practice a little Lent every Friday. When you give up meat or chocolate or pray the Rosary on your knees before the Blessed Sacrament, or whatever you do, it is not that you are doing something heroic or especially meritorious. It is mostly that you are thwarting your own selfish will, which is exactly what you need to make a sacrifice when love calls for it.
  • If love is the game, then the ascetical life is the training, calisthenics, coach, and practice sessions we need to play that game.
  • When we love one another–and this takes sacrifice–not only do we fulfill the New Commandment, we make a little bit of heaven present on earth.
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