Sunday Reflection - Fifth Sunday of Easter
Posted: Sat, 14 May 2022 18:26
By this love you have for one another,
everyone will know that you are my disciples. (Jn 13:35)
As we move towards the end of the Easter season, the Church offers us an opportunity to reflect on the priestly prayer of Jesus in John's Gospel that takes place in the context of the Last Supper. Jesus has shown what true love is all about by washing the feet of disciples. All twelve, including the denier, Peter and the traitor, Judas receive this act of service. Jesus goes down on his hands and knees to show them what this love is all about. It is only after Judas leaves the meal that Jesus speaks of his upcoming glory. However, as these weeks have made us well aware, glory only comes through pain and suffering—there can be no Easter Day without Good Friday. Henri Nouwen reminds us that we are called into a circle of compassion that can reveal our strength:
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
It is this total immersion onto the love of God that helps us to practice it in our own lives. Today is that opportunity to thank God for those who show us compassion and unconditional love. Those who are willing to drop everything if we need them: I think of a dear friend who got on her bike to cycle and see me in hospital after I had an accident. I am blessed by those who send messages and phone calls just to inquire that I am alright. I am grateful to those who have not given up on me when I may well have given up on myself.
As you are well aware, to offer true Christian love means that you have to give something of yourself. In offering that love, we naturally have to take risks—we have to offer ourselves and this could mean hurting getting hurt in the process. People could misunderstand your motives, while others see this command to love as having exceptions or 'get out' clauses. The great author, CS Lewis argues that the only way you can protect yourself from harm or hurt, is not to love. However, that flies in the face of all that Christ teaches us—we must not fear the challenge to love. It is a challenge that can lead us down the dark lanes of Jerusalem that might end on our own personal Calvary:
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. ('The Four Loves')
The command to love is never going to be easy, and you must never lock your heart in that place that is dark and airless. In this coming week, you will meet challenges and difficulties that will test both your patience and love. The love we are called to is quite simple, as the Lord tells us:
'Love one another as I have loved you.'
I was horrified to see a leading right wing US politician speak on a so-called 'Catholic' website, 'Church Militant' about how the Catholic Church misinterprets the command of Jesus to love. The Church is working hard to help refugees at the Southern border, yet this avowed anti-Catholic politician can, with a straight face, condemn the sterling work of Catholic Charities in their compassionate care for those who have nothing:
What it is, is Satan's controlling the church. Catholics and other Christians who cite biblical mandates to "love one another" by taking care of migrants are perverting both the meaning of the Bible and the Constitution.
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB