East6B18. Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48. The Acts of the Apostles 15:1 states: Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Today’s first reading helps to set the stage for debate that was to rage later in beginnings of Christianity. Was what Christ was establishing a new form or sect of Judaism or an entirely different religion that was rooted in Judaism? It is the latter. “Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him (Jesus),” Peter says. The Holy Spirit poured out himself on Jew and Gentile alike without any discrimination.
John 15:9-17 & 17:11b-19. (Since in the Wilmington Diocese we do the Mass for the Ascension on the second Sunday from now, thus leaving the readings of the Seventh Sunday without any coverage, I would like to bring the second and third readings from the Seventh Sunday into this reflection so that they get some attention. In John 15:9, “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” In other words, remain in and live in the divine love that I pour into you. We have always heard, “Love with all your heart, with all your mind and all your soul,” as if we ourselves create the love from within ourselves from our own resources that enables us to respond positively to this command. I believe that it is not our love with which we love but rather the love that God is always giving us that is the love that we bring to the commandments of love. In other words, I understand that on our own, apart from God, we cannot truly love. In John 15:5b, Jesus says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” It is only that we have received love from God that we have love to bring to anyone. In our second reading for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we read, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” God is always at the center of our bearing any fruit. In John 15:16a, Jesus says, “ It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” What we must ask for is true love in the midst of a world that all too often wants to love itself and a life in the flesh that only wants to love pleasures for the flesh. It is now as Jesus said in John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” and no longer, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus who offered himself up as a sacrifice for our sins to open the gates of heaven to us showed us that love is what we do for the true unadulterated benefit of others and not for what we can get out of it.
In John 17:6, Jesus says, “I revealed your name (you) to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (lived by what they have been taught.) In John 17:9, Jesus says, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours.” Since we Christians belong to God, he protects and guards us from the evil one. The devil roams about the world trying to steal away from God those who have chosen to belong to God. We are in the world but do not belong to the world and the devil but to God and heaven. In John 18:36, in speaking to Pilate, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world’.” In John 17:17, Jesus says, “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” To be consecrated means to be given or devoted completely and totally to God who is the fullness of truth, of what is eternally divine and not just a temporary gloss or veneer that appears to be momentarily pleasing in the eye of the world.
1 John 4:7-10, 11-16 (the second readings of both the Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter). In 1 John 4:16, we read: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” When our life comes from the love that God is giving us every moment of our lives, then we remain in God and in his love. If we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work for our sanctification, then we build holiness within ourselves from the Spirit’s developing within us a sharing in God’s divine life that is the result of God’s endless act of loving us. The love that has been poured into us is what we share by loving one another as he has loved us. God demands to see the fruit of his work of love in us. Jesus says in John 15:16-17, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” When we do God’s work of love, we do it with him. He never leaves our side, so to give us whatever we need to accomplish his Will, his work of love through us and in us.