6th Sunday of Easter (Fr. Simham)
WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF CHRISITAN LIFE
I read a story about a small church in the Swiss Alps which is very popular among the locals. The reason for their affection is the story of how it came to be built. The story goes like this.
Two brothers worked a family farm, sharing the produce and profit. One was married and the other was not. The climate was harsh with the result that grain was sometimes scarce. One day the ‘single-brother’ said to himself, “It’s not fair that we should share the produce equally. I’m alone, but my brother has a family to support.” So every now and then he would go out at night, take a sack of grain from his own barn, quietly cross the field between their houses, and place it in his brother’s bin. Meanwhile, his brother had a similar idea, and said, ‘It’s not right that we should share the produce equally. I have a family to support me when I am hungry but my brother is alone.’ So every now and then he would go out at night, take a sack of grain from his own barn, and place it in his brother’s bin.
This went on for a number of years. Each brother was puzzled how his supply of grain never dwindled. Then one night they bumped into each other in the dark. When they realised what had been happening, they dropped their sacks, and embraced each other. Suddenly a voice from heaven said: ‘Here I will build my church. For where people meet in love, there my presence shall dwell.’ ( Courtesy: Flor McCarthy)
Friends, this sums up perfectly the message that is contained in all the three readings we heard today. In the first reading St. Peter enters into Cornelius, a Gentile’s house and declares, ‘God has no favourites. He loves all and sends his Spirit over all. If its so who am I to be different.’ Loving communion of brotherhood is established. And in the second reading St. John an apostle of love says “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God.” And in the gospel today Jesus says “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” Along with these let me also add those famous words of St. Paul in his letter to Corinthians: “ So faith hope and love, these three things last; but the greatest is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Now, based on these and many other things that Jesus taught and did, tell me what you think is the essence of Christian religion? Often people don’t get it right. What is the essence of Christianity? For me as far as I understand the scriptures it is LOVE. ‘The greatest of these is love.’ What love? Love of God or love of neighbour? This again is a tricky question. What is the essence of Religion? Is it love of God or love of neighbour? Read the gospel again. Jesus says “As the father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” How you can abide in my love? Read the next verse “ If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” And what is his commandment? Read verse 12. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Look at the logic here. It is something like this. Because the Fathers loves me, as a response to his love I keep his commandment and love you. Now, because I love you, as a response to my love, keep my commandment and love one another.” Because God loved you and me and gave his only son for our redemption, and because Jesus the Son loved us so much that he gave his life for us, we need to love one another. Not so much because our neighbour is worth loving, but because god is worth loving, and to love God means to obey him and love one another. That for me is the essence of religion.
That is why St. John in his epistle says “He who knows how to love his neighbour knows God and he who does not love does not know God.” To put in in more simple words, it means “To know God or to love God is to love our neighbour.” As simple as that.
There’s an old legend about the apostle John. John’s was the longest surviving disciple of Jesus. Most of the disciples had been executed. But John survived. And the story goes that every week they’d bring him into the church meetings on a stretcher and ask him to say something. And he’d lean up on one elbow and say, “Little children, LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” And then he’d lie back down on his bed and they’d carry him out.
Every week, exactly the same message. ‘Little children… love one another.’ And one day, the story goes, someone asked him, “Master, why is it that every week you say exactly the same thing, little children love one another? Can‘t you say something more” And John seems to have said, “SON IT IS ENOUGH.” Yes! Friends, is it not enough? God doesn’t want ‘angels in the church and demons on the street.’ He wants to see angels on the street too. St. John of the cross, one of the great mystics said, “In the evening of our life we will be examined on love.” How we have been on the street. So let us that we may be angels not only in the church but on the street too. Amen.
Fr. Showreelu Simham