5th Sunday of Easter (Fr. Francis)
A young woman was about to get married when it was discovered that her brother had been diagnosed as having severe kidney problems. Without a speedy transplant he would die. Having consulted her boyfriend and family she decided to donate one of her kidneys to her brother. A number of her friends and relatives advised her not to do this. Some said that it might cause her problems later on especially when it came to having children. Also that it was a great risk and that being quite young she might not live as long as she might do if she had two kidneys. But she was adamant. ‘I love my brother and am prepared to take the risk’. As a result of her self-sacrificing love her brother is still alive.
“Love one another”. On this statement of Jesus, I propose three things for you to reflect: First, it is a Command. It is not an invitation. It is not a request and it is not an option. First and foremost, it is a command or an order. Being a command, it calls for total obedience on our part. In other words, it is an obligation to love one another.
Second, the Lord says to us: “Love one another.” He did not say, “Love one another when you are both young and when you are both healthy.” He did not say: “Love one another when the other one has stopped offending you.” He did not say: “love one another when the other loves you or good to you or he/she is cute or he/she is rich,” and others. The Lord only says, “Love one another,” without any conditions or limitations. He might say: “Lover one another even if she/he doesn’t love you or like or refuses to forgive you or he/she doesn’t need you anymore or she/he is no longer cute and desirable”. In other words, to love is forever.
There was a little girl who was born without an ear. She became shy and introverted person. There were times when she would go home crying because her classmates made fun of her. When she became a teenager, her mother brought her to a surgeon who performed an ear transplant on her. The operation was successful and she became a normal and happy person.
Not long after she had a boyfriend. After several years, she decided to get married. On the eve of her wedding day, she went inside her mother’s room to thank her. But as she embraced her, she noticed something strange…something absent. She realized that beneath the long hair of her mother was a missing ear.
She cried and said: “It was you! All these years you didn’t tell me it was you.” The mother replied: “My child, I didn’t tell you because I don’t want you to be sad for me. I did it because I want you to be happy, to see you happy with your life. You don’t lose something when you give it to someone you love.”
Third, the Lord says: “Love one another as I have loved you.” In this statement, once again, Jesus reminds us that love is the soul of our Christian life. It is not the liturgy or the cultic worship but love which is the core and the soul of our Christian life.
When St. Bernard was asked, what is the measure of love, he answered: “The measure of love is to love without measure.” Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us an example of a love without measure. He did not condemn Mary Magdalene. He called St. Matthew to be His apostle even though Matthew was a tax collector and a sinner. He even was not afraid to touch and heal the sick and stretched out his hands to the lepers who were considered as ‘untouchables’ during that time because nobody wanted to touch them and be near to them.
This is the reason why we have to love one another not in the measure of our human ability to love or on account of how others can return our love but as God has loved us. Like for example, for wives, your husbands may not be perfect husbands yet you have to love them not because they have met your expectations but as Jesus loved us. For husbands, your wives may have weaknesses and shortcomings, but as Jesus loved us you must love them. You may have frustrations with your children but you continue to love them because of the love of Jesus that you experience in your life. This Christian principle is applied even to our enemies.
You and I are on a journey – and we have a goal. As John tells us in the Book of Revelation we are headed to, “the holy city, a new Jerusalem”. In that New Jerusalem, God will wipe away every tear, no more mourning or death. The old has passed away. We hear God declare, “Behold, I make all things new.” So that’s our goal – the New Jerusalem, the holy city. To get to that goal St. Paul tells us that we have to face tribulation. There’s no smooth road to the New Jerusalem. “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships,” says Paul, “to enter the kingdom of God.”
The question this Sunday is: What sustains us in the journey? To reach the New Jerusalem, God gives us a special food. A famous story can help understand the food God gives us. Some of you have read The Lord of the Rings or seen the movie. It’s about a journey. The journey seems impossible – so many obstacles, vicious opposition and suffering. What sustains Frodo and Sam on the journey? You probably remember – a wonderful bread called Lembos. A small piece gives renewed energy and strength. So it is for us. Like the Elves gave the hobbits Lembos, God gives us a wondrous bread. It sustains us as the Lembos sustained Frodo and Sam. In a few minutes some people will bring some unleavened bread to the altar. I will then pray over the bread and wine. I will ask God to send the Holy Spirit so the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. When you receive this Bread, it unites you intimately with Jesus – and with his Church which has two dimensions: the visible Church governed by Pope Francis and the invisible Church. As we hear in the Eucharistic Prayer, the invisible Church includes Mary our Mother, St. Joseph, the Apostles, together with all the saints and angels.
This Bread unites us with Jesus and his Church, visible and invisible. It sustains us in our hardships. J.R.R. Tolkien – the author of Lord of the Rings – speaks about this Sacred Bread, the Eucharist. He actually received Communion daily. When his son was struggling with his faith, Tolkien wrote: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament….There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth…”
Tolkien describes how the Eucharist helps us in face of hardship and discouragement. “The only cure for sagging or fainting faith,” he says, “is Communion.” Amen
Fr. A. Francis HGN