Because He Loves Us

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 19, 2018

John J. Donnelly, Jr. 1927-1996

Our First Reading today (ACTS 14:21-27) gives us another glimpse into the early Christian Church. We hear about Paul and Barnabas, and their missionary journey to help bring the Good News of Christ to the Gentiles (the non-Jewish people). This is a real game-changer for the Church. The faith and zeal of these disciples helped “open the door of faith” to everyone. Through their missionary efforts, they “made a considerable number of disciples.”

By cooperating with the Holy Spirit and doing as Jesus directed them, they helped the Christian Church grow at an outstanding rate.

Another game changer we hear today is in the Gospel (JN 13:31-33A, 34-35) where Jesus preaches a radical commandment to his disciples before he is turned over to be crucified. Jesus tells his disciples (as he is telling us today) that we are to love one another. He says, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

This is our identity as Christian disciples: To be people who love one another; people who reach out to share their faith with others.

This is the type of discipleship that built the Church 2000 years ago. This is the type of discipleship we need to re-build our church and our parish today.

As I read scripture and prepared my homily for today I spent a lot of time reflecting on the theme of Christ-like love. As I did so, memories of my father filled my heart and mind. Today is the 23rd anniversary of my father’s death and reflecting on his death made me remember an experience I had on the day he died.

While driving to the hospital to be with my mom and my siblings as we waited for Dad to pass, I was overcome with emotion. As I drove, a familiar Celine Dion song (“Because You Loved Me“) came on the radio and I heard those beautiful and reassuring words: “I’m everything I am, because you loved me.”

The song describes a supportive, loving relationship (like the one I had with my dad). As I listened, I reflected on how my dad cared for his family – not necessarily providing all that we wanted, but providing what we needed. How he inspired each of us to be the best version of ourselves. How we became Christian believers because he believed. And how we became who we are (for better or worse) because he and mom loved us.

If you were to sum up all of Christ’s teaching into one word, that word would be “love.”

Not simply a physical or emotional love. Not just treating each other nicely and with respect. But actively loving each other as Jesus did.

The love Jesus expressed is extraordinary:

  1. Jesus’ love is unconditional – Sinner or saint, friend or foe, Jesus loves you.
  2. Jesus’ love is sacrificial – He humbled himself, becoming human like us, and gave his life so we may live forever.
  3. Jesus loved social outcasts as well as the “in crowd” – He dined with prostitutes and tax collectors, as well as leaders of the Jewish community. Through his actions, he answered that age-old question: Is church for sinners or the saints? The answer is both – both deserves love.
  4. Jesus treated all as equals – Jesus healed lepers, and the Roman centurion’s servant. He washed the feet of the disciples, and healed the pagan woman’s daughter. Jesus didn’t pick and choose who to love – he taught us to love all God’s people.
  5. Jesus’ love was compassionate – Jesus was concerned for the sufferings and misfortunes of others – and he did something about it!

Jesus demonstrated an active love. He didn’t preach from the sidelines; he was “in the game.” For example, think of what happened at the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He came down and assumed the garb and gestures of a servant. He made himself an equal to the people he was going to serve.

Jesus calls us to that same type of servant-focused love today. We learn this by acknowledging those who have demonstrated Christ-like love to us.

I encourage you to take some time this week to reflect on the last sentence in today’s Gospel. Jesus said, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

If you are bold, maybe start a conversation with your spouse or your children. Do as the early Christians did:

  • Tell the stories of who, in your life taught you to love like Jesus.
  • Discuss how evident that type of love is in your life today.
  • Share ideas of how you can be Christian disciples in the world today.

Be at peace, and know that you are loved!

Deacon Dan