Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

                                 Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Ten years ago, I missed an appointment with death in an ugly car accident. My saving grace was God’s love in the person of Jesus Christ, substantially and really present in the Holy Eucharist.

It was a Sunday evening. I was returning from attending to some elderly and sick homebound seniors when the person driving before me suddenly stopped to make a U-turn without warning. I tried to avoid the collision, but it still happened. I was thrown off the road heading toward a government building, but the car stopped some meters away.

The hood of the car came off, and the battery blew up. It was a wreck in a few words. But I was unharmed, not even a scratch. But that was not the high point. I had the Holy Eucharist in the dashboard glove compartment, but the wreck did not touch the area. It was God’s merciful love that I can still not fully comprehend or sufficiently appreciate.

Our world will be lost in a second without God’s love. Remember that God is love (1 John 4:8). So, what love cannot cover has no relevance. Even the Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Love and the Holy Spirit

The Gospel Reading of this Sunday (John 14: 15-21) is a continuation of the final words of Jesus Christ to the apostles during the last supper. Among other things, our Lord introduced, for the first time, the person and mission of the Holy Spirit and used love as the condition for his entrance. Our Lord said:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him because he remains with you and will be in you.

Notice here that the Holy Spirit would only come when love is expressed through compliance with the commandments. So, what are the commandments? Do we need to rehearse the ten commandments each time? No!

 Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us an executive summary of the commandments using the phenomenon of Love. Recall that when someone asked, “Which is the greatest commandment of the law?” Jesus said:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:37-40).

It makes sense here that Jesus asked the disciples to power up their love for God and neighbor as the precondition for the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father. In a few words, the Holy Spirit responds to love. This is a powerful message we need to engage in the coming weeks as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost.  

The Labor of Love in the Early Church

The First Reading of last Sunday (Act 6:1-7) told us about the first scandal in the early Church, which was the sin again love and justice occasioned by the negligence of the widows of the Hellenists by the Hebrews in the daily distribution of welfare to the members.

We learned that the remedy to that ugly situation was appointing seven men filled with the Holy Spirit to ensure true love, justice, and equity in the community. Beyond food sharing, the deacons were also evangelizing, sharing the word of God with passionate love.

The First Reading today tells us about the mission of one of them named Phillip, who found himself ministering in Samaria following the outbreak of persecution of the believers in Jerusalem.

The persecution was a bad thing with a good effect in that it spread the word of God beyond the Jewish borders. Notice that it aligns with the instruction of the ascending Lord (Acts 1:8) “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Love is not just a feeling or the content of a moving speech. Love is sacrificial, not beneficial. In loving, we give rather than receive. The missionaries in the early Church demonstrated their love for God and souls through what they had to give, in other words, their sacrifices.

Notice that all the apostles died as martyrs except John the Beloved, who could not die even after being tortured and was consequently banished to the Island of Patmos.

In the Second Reading (1 Peter 3:15-18), St. Peter challenged his audience to be ready to defend their hope calmly against defamers to put them to shame. He further said it is better to suffer for doing good according to God’s will than to suffer for doing evil.

In life often see yourselves hated even when you do good things out of true love. When faced with such situations, some people withdraw and try to match evil for evil. Yet, the greatest gift you can give anyone is love; in fact, St. Paul would even call it a debt we owe one another because love fulfills the law (Romans 13:8).

Moving Forward: Let Love Change the World

 Every government has transformation agenda; some succeed, others don’t. But one agenda that will survive anytime and any season is love. Our Christian faith is built on the foreground of love. Remember that God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son. Our response to God’s gift should be a corresponding love for God and others.

Without love, we lose our bearing with God and one another—the apostle John said in his First Letter (1 John 4:7-8) that we should love one another, for love comes from God. And everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Love is not an option but a grave obligation. There is no future with God without love. It could pain us now, but we shall gain eternally. Let us continue the labor of love we have received from the apostles and their close collaborators. May the love of God reign in your heart always,

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.         

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