Sunday, May 9, 2021, Sixth Sunday of Easter
Serve Others—Serve God
First Reading Commentary: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Out of respect, we honor people who hold positions of high authority. The way that we honor someone may be expected because of their position or it may be customary, or it may simply be our choice. In any case, it is done out of respect.
Cornelius fell at the feet of Peter when Peter entered his house, but Peter raised him up and said, “Get up. I myself am a human being.” Cornelius fell at the feet of Peter because he respected who Peter was, but Peter showed great humility instead of being honored in such a way. In fact, Peter’s humility was taught to him by Jesus who, in spite of His divinity, lived a life filled with humility teaching by example.
Jesus instructed the disciples to serve as opposed to being served. At the conclusion of the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and said to Peter, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” John 13:7 After washing all of their feet, Jesus said to the Twelve, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” John 13:15
Peter’s time to understand what Jesus had done and to follow the example had come. As the Rock appointed by Jesus, it was now his time to set the example to be followed and it was now his time to serve others by proclaiming and sharing the Good News of the Gospel and by baptizing the peoples of all nations. Now it was Peter’s time to teach by example that when we serve others with dignity and humility, we actually serve God.
But humility is not the only message here. In saying that he was a human being, Peter was conveying the message that no one is greater than anyone else. God made us all equal and God loves us all the same. God does not have favorites. We are all chosen but those who are called chosen are those who choose God.
We cannot choose God if we are too stuck up on ourselves. There is no room for self-righteous pride in choosing God. We cannot love our neighbor as we love ourselves if we think that we are better than our neighbor. Because we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor, we are compelled to accept everyone in the same way that we want God to accept us. We cannot forget that the face of God is in each of us because we are made in His image and likeness.
The circumcised believers, who were Jews, were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles who began to speak in tongues. Peter spoke and said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” Point being, once again, that all people are God’s children and no one is better than anyone else in God’s eyes. What God gives to one group of people; God gives to all people.
People who believe strongly in and are devout to their religion sometimes make the mistake of looking down on those who profess their faith in a different way. This was the mistake of the circumcised believers. We should learn from this. No one can make a bigger spiritual mistake!
Sometimes Catholics who understand the completeness of their religion accepting and professing all of the sacraments look down on those who profess their faith in the same God but in a different way. Even if someone does not accept the Trinity as all Christians do; none of us has the right to look down on another person’s faith. The reverse is also true—those who do not accept or believe in the Trinity; should not look down on those who do. God made all of us, He loves and accepts all of us and He refuses no one that accepts Him! The best way to profess our faith to those who do not share our faith is to interact with them in a way which is consistent with the humility, love and respect that Christ expects of us just as Peter did in this event.
It’s All about Love
Second Reading Commentary: 1 John 4:7-10
You can take the messages in today’s first reading from Acts and sum them up by what John wrote in today’s excerpt of his first letter. It is all about love—our love for God, God’s love for us and our love for each other.
What John writes in his letters is the Greatest Commandment explained over and over again. Today, John tells us to love one another because love is of God and everyone who loves comes from God and knows God. John makes this point because, it is impossible to truly love our neighbor or even ourselves if we do not first love God. We cannot fathom what true love is if we do not know God and we will never know God if we do not love Him.
Let me say that again. We cannot fathom what true love is if we do not know God and we will never know God if we do not love Him. That does not seem to make sense but that is because God is a mystery far beyond our human comprehension. It takes faith for us to accept that if we love God, we will know God and only then will we know true love and be able to love our neighbor and ourselves.
But there are two things that we do know to be absolute. First, if it is in our hearts to obey the Greatest Commandments, we will obey them because God will be with us every step of the way and He will not let us fail. It won’t be easy because we are always tested and tempted by the evil one. But as long as we keep the faith and our desires focused on God’s Will, He will take us by the hand and lead us straight to His Kingdom.
Second, we know that God loves us. John tells us that God’s love was revealed to us when the Son was sent into the world so that we might have life through Him. Using different words, John is repeating what he wrote in 3:16 of his Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him…might have eternal life.”
It is because of God’s love for us that we can know Him and love Him even though we will never understand the many mysteries of God in this lifetime. But all will be revealed in the next life when we are in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Complete Joy = Faith + Love + Obedience + Prayer = FLOP
Gospel Commentary: John 14:15-21
If you wish to be with Jesus, you must love Him and obey His commandments in faith. Jesus gave us that message many times. But today, Jesus tells us that being with Him is the only way to have complete joy. Meditate on that for a moment. Is there anything that you can imagine that can bring about more joy than being with Jesus? If you believe in Jesus, then the answer has to be, no.
Jesus told us many times that the things of this world are not important. He told us that preparing ourselves for the eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven is most important. In today’s Gospel, Jesus told us why—we cannot have complete joy unless we are in His love. Does this mean that Jesus does not love us if we sin? No, it does not. If that were the case, there would have never been a Crucifixion!
A parent does not stop loving their child because they misbehave. God does not stop loving us when we misbehave either. But a good parent does not reward their child for misbehaving. Neither does God reward us for misbehaving. That is what Jesus means when he tells us that if we love Him and obey His commandments, His love will be in us. That is what will make our joy complete.
Again, Jesus commanded the disciples to love each other and told them that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus told the disciples that they were His friends and not slaves because a slave does not know what the master is doing but that He had told them everything. Jesus said, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”
Love is most important with Jesus because He is God, the Son, and God is love. It is impossible to follow Jesus and obey His commandments if we do not love Him and we cannot do that if we do not love each other which, is part of His Greatest Commandment. It all goes hand-in-hand and one depends on the other. When Jesus told the disciples that there was no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, He was telling them once again that He was about to give His life for them.
Those of us who believe in Christ always put our hearts in the fact that Jesus gave His life for our salvation. We always meditate on this with gratitude and we should. In fact, it is impossible for us as humans to show enough gratitude. But we do not always stop to reflect on the love. I am not saying that we ignore it. But I am saying that sometimes we ought to stop and meditate just on God’s love. A love so strong, that He would send the Son to give His life for our salvation. It just might help us to do a better job of loving each other.
Jesus told the disciples that He appointed them to go and bear fruit that would remain. He was telling the disciples that they were chosen to build the Church. We are all chosen by God to do something. And, because the Church is the people, we are all called to build the Church. We each have a mission. It is our choice to complete that mission or to ignore it.
For some people, their mission in life is not obvious to them. There are some people who never even think about what their mission in life might be. Whether we are aware of our mission or not, we should pray on it. If we do not know what our mission is, we should ask God to tell us what it is. If we do not know how to go about our mission, we should ask God to show us the way. If we feel that we are not capable, we should ask God to give us the help—strength that we need to complete it. We should pray to the Trinity. This is not the first time that I am making that suggestion. Ask the Father to send the Spirit upon us in the name of the Son.
It follows therefore, that Jesus would tell the disciples to ask the Father in the name of the Son. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would descend upon the Apostles as Jesus promised. And so, we should pray to the Trinity. And in the end, God will give us complete joy, because we are a FLOP. We kept the Faith, we showed our Love, we remained Obedient and we Prayed. Bet you never knew that being a FLOP could be such a wonderful thing, but there is nothing greater.