6th Sunday of Easter Year B
Perfect our love, so that our joy may be complete.
We often say we love Jesus. The love of Jesus beings us joy. In the Gospel this week, Jesus tells us, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (verse 10-11). Hence, love of Jesus bring us complete joy. Yet often, this love of ours is imperfect. Consequently, our joy is also incomplete. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) But how do I love more perfectly so that my joy may be complete?
Continuing from His message in the previous week, Jesus says this week, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” (verse 10). Often when we speak of God’s Commandments, we think of the Ten Commandments: that we honour God, His name and His holy days; that we honour our parents; that we uphold the sanctity of human life and human sexuality; that we uphold honesty and truth. How do these Commandments relate to love? In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus explains that these Ten Commandments can be summarised into the two great Commandments of love – love of God and love of neighbour (Mk 12:30-31).
Let us reflect on the first of these two great Commandments – love of God. When I say “love of God”, I often think of it as me loving God. This is not wrong. Yet it is incomplete. To more completely experience “love of God”, I also need to allow myself to be loved by God. In my relationship with God, do I often behave like a little child trying to please my father? In doing so, do I subconsciously believe that if I am not a good enough child, God would not love me? Do I genuinely open myself to be unconditionally loved by God – in spite of all my sins and all my shortcomings? Do I realise that God’s love for me is not a consequence of me obeying His Commandments. Rather, my obeying of God’s Commandments is a consequence of His love for me. Jesus says in this week’s Gospel, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (verse 12) In other words, my ability to obey the commandment of loving my brothers and sisters draws its essence from Jesus’s love for me. In this way, love of God and love of neighbour are simply two aspects of the one great commandment of love.
Let us now reflect on the second of the two great Commandments – love of neighbour. How do I love more perfectly? Jesus showed us how by abiding in His Father’s love (Gospel, verse 10). In other words, he allows Himself to experience the unconditional love of His Father, as He then showers the same unconditional love onto us. (verse 12). Hence, to love more perfectly, I need to follow Jesus’ example, that I open myself to His unconditional love, as I then love my brothers and sisters unconditionally in the same way. St John, the beloved disciple of our Lord, explained it this way in the Second Reading, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (verse 7)
So, how do I bring this love to perfection? “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Gospel, verse 13) Jesus perfected his love for me by dying for me. Can I exercise this type of sacrificial love to my brothers and sisters? This is really challenging. This gets even more challenging when we consider what St Paul said: “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:7-8) Jesus extended His sacrificial love to me even while I am a sinner. In the same way, am I able to extend sacrificial love to a brother or sister whom I find hard to love? It could be someone I deem unworthy of my love; or perhaps someone who has hurt me badly. If we can find the grace to love in this way, then, just as Jesus’s love for us brought about our redemption, our love for our brothers and sisters will also bring about their redemption. This, my brothers and sisters, is how we perfect our love and complete our joy.
But this is very hard. How do we open ourselves to love like that? We need to open ourselves to the grace of God. St Peter gives us an example in this week’s First Reading. Cornelius was an upright Gentile man. But under the Jewish belief of that time, the Jews considered Gentiles as outcasts that are not worthy of salvation. Hence, they believe a man like Cornelius cannot be saved. Prompted by an angel, Cornelius invited Peter to his house. To help Peter overcome the social stigma of the times, God gave Peter a vision. In the vision, Peter was asked by God to eat unclean food. When Peter refused, God said, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Right at this very moment, the men Cornelius sent to invite Peter arrived. (Acts 10:1-18) In verse 44-48, we heard how God further affirmed the vision He gave Peter, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Gentiles as He did on Pentecost day, prompting the unbaptised Gentiles to speak in tongues and proclaiming the greatness of God (verse 46). We read that “circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded” (verse 45). It was in response to this astonishing phenomenon that Peter conferred the Sacrament of Baptism on Cornelius’ Gentile family. With his Jewish upbringing, this new way of loving must have been uncomfortable for Peter initially. But because Peter was able to open his heart to the grace of God, his heart was converted.
Now let us do the same. My brothers and sisters, to help our hearts convert, I invite you to reflect on the cross often. But not just any cross but a crucifix. Spend a quiet moment everyday reflecting on how Jesus loves me to his death on that cross, in spite of me being a sinner. Then invite Him to come into my heart so that I may do the same. I assure you, when you are able to do that, your heart will be liberated. Peace be with you.