6th Sunday Easter Year B
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / 1 John 4:7-10 / John 15:9-17
A young man got married and he asked his wife if they could go, as part of their honeymoon, to a certain country where his best friend lived as he wanted her to meet him.
On meeting the friend he introduced him to his wife with the words. “Here is the man you need to thank for my being alive today”. He is what I call a true friend.
Apparently when they were in high school together the young married man found out that he had had a very severe kidney complaint, with both kidneys in a very serious condition.
Even though he had been good friends always with the other young man, he realized then what it was to have a true friend.
His friend, on hearing of his possible death due to his serious kidney condition offered him one of his own kidneys. Luckily the kidneys matched and the gift of the kidney saved his life.
I suppose not everyone would risk his own life to do this.
In the gospel today Jesus says to his disciples that ‘a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends’ which he himself did in giving his life on the cross.
He assures them that in the gospel he wants to call them, and us too, his friends. His relationship with them and us is not to be that of a servant.
A servant is someone who does what his master commands as an obligation or because he is paid to do so. Jesus is emphasizing that his relationship with us is to be that of true friendship.
The game of tennis is a quite popular game. People follow the game, watch the game on tv (which can last for a few hours) and of course some play the game. But tennis is certainly more than just a play-play kind of game.
Because top professional tennis players can become millionaires, and the top names are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, etc. And these top players play in top tournaments like Wimbledon, US Open, French Open, etc.
But for all the big names and the big money, the game of tennis is actually quite a simple game. All you have to do is to hit the ball back into your opponent’s court. That’s all you need to do to win the game. It’s as simple as that; but it requires a lot of skill to do that.
And you know what it is said about life and tennis? Life is like a game of tennis. The player who can hit every ball across seldom loses.
So the simple logic about tennis is that when the ball comes to you, you don’t keep the ball. You always return the ball, so to speak.
And that is also the simple logic about life and love. In life whenever love comes to us, we don’t keep it for ourselves. We have to return it. So in a way, life is like a game of tennis – we return the love, just as we return the ball.
And that is what Jesus is telling us in the gospel – As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. For Jesus, love is not for keeps. The love that He received from His Father, He gives to us. And the love we receive from Jesus, we in turn must give to others.
And Jesus even makes a commandant out of it – Love one another as I have loved you. In other words, as Jesus has loved us, so must we love one another. It’s a commandment; it’s not a suggestion, nor is it an option.
We often hear of this phrase “love offering”. It is often written on boxes in church events and it is a way of asking for donations to offset the cost of holding the events.
It gives us the notion that we can give whatever we wish and we are not obliged to give a large sum nor are we required to give all we have.
But for God, when it comes to a love offering, it is nothing less than all. As we heard in the 2nd reading, God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world His only Son so that we can have life through Him.
So it is not our love for God, but God’s love for us when He sent His only Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away. Yes, love is a sacrifice, and a love offering is a total offering because God’s love for us is a total sacrifice.
Therefore, John says today, “Wherever there is love, there is God”. He does not say, “Wherever there are Christians, there is God” or “Wherever there is a Christian church, there is God”.
But, wherever there is a person filled with real agape-love for others, God is there. That is the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
He was called “good” not because he was a religious person but because he reached out in compassionate love for someone who was supposed to be his enemy.
So we can find love, and therefore God at work, in a Protestant, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim. Maybe that person has no religious faith at all. He or she may be an agnostic, an atheist, a communist.
Wherever in the world there is truth, compassion, justice, true freedom and peace, God is certainly there.
The love that Jesus speaks about is very different from the love of the pop songs on MTV, or much of the love on TV and the movies. Sometimes when we love, we will be very happy.
But sometimes loving the poor, the sick, the criminal will not be very easy. If we have to look after a relative who is close to dying, it can be a very painful experience, especially if that patient is difficult or unresponsive to our attentions. But that is love.
Love is not a question of keeping rules and commandments. Love is a way of life. It is an internal attitude which influences every single thing we do and say and think.
The love of a Christian needs to be unconditional. Sometimes people will love us back; sometimes they will not. Sometimes, even though we want to love people, they may reject us.
If they do reject us, we need not necessarily think that we have done wrong. When people cannot return genuine love, it is they who have the problem. Sad to say, not everyone is capable of loving.
All the more reason why we need to reach out to them. People often learn to love by being loved.
The most important thing is not that I am very clever, very successful, very rich, very famous… The most important thing is that I am someone who really loves.
When I genuinely love others, there will always be some who cannot love me back but there will be others who will really respond in love. And it may be that my love has empowered them to be loving too.
To be able to reach out in love and to experience being loved is God’s greatest grace.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.