April 28th, 2013 – Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year C

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“I give you a new commandment
Love One Another as
Just as I have Loved you”

In the second half of the Gospel reading we have the most important summary statement of Jesus’ teachings. Love of others is the way we know that we are truly following Jesus. What is new about this commandment of Jesus, is that in the past, other prophets have talked about love, but it was always for love of the family or the community of the person. Jesus extends it to all people – the undeserving as well as the deserving. These was not typically a Mediterranean way of looking at things and so, as Jesus says, it is a ‘new’ commandment.

The challenge of this teaching is enormous. It goes against what is ingrained in many of us who want justice or revenge. It goes against those who are told to strike back. But Jesus is completely consistent in this teaching and it informs everything he has taught: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”; turn the other cheek; love your enemies!

Two weeks ago we had the Boston Marathon bombings, another horrific event. Facebook comments were disturbing. The vituperation, the anger, the revenge comments was both uncomfortable and sad. Obviously we want the terrorists caught so that no more people would be hurt, but some of the things people wanted to happen to them or to do them were as horrific as the bombings themselves. What ‘is’ the Christian response to such an event. Can we forgive those who trespass against us in such a situation? Obviously many cannot. And yet this is what Jesus asks of love, what he demands of love. It should give all of us much thought.

So the challenge to us is enormous as well. Do we carry this central teaching into our lives? In the kingdom we are trying to establish on earth, is that the primary consideration in all we do? Do we offer forgiveness, help, money, time to all those in need to the best of our ability and talent and resources? No, of course we don’t. If we did, the kingdom would already be here and we would have reached a type of perfection. We can only strive to use this as a measure to help us to reach perfection. And it is certainly the greatest challenge provided by the Gospels. Something we can all strive to accomplish. In the coming week try to see Jesus in some stranger you meet . Find ways to ‘hear’ Jesus speak. Let’s see if we can’t enlarge our view this week and see Jesus in a few more people and try to love them by empathizing, by helping, by sharing – and extend the kingdom of God just a little further in your life.