“You are my friends if I do what I command you”
by Fr Martin Loftus SDB
Recently, my grand-nephew Andrew was taking an interview for a JOB! He usually goes round in T-shirt, and jeans, and running-shoes – but that morning, he was immaculate! Before people go for a job interview, they spruce themselves up! Then they usually check with their family or friends if they look alright! Minor adjustments are made; Dry throats are watered, moist palms are rubbed. Nervousness is covered with a ready smile. The interview begins! Andrew went through all this anxiety and strain, in the hope that he would be selected for the job. And as it happened, he was successful!
Today’s Gospel speaks about choice! “You did not choose me, no, I chose you! we don’t have to turn up at an interview, to discover if God will choose us, or not! We don’t have to earn God’s love! There are no conditions to his love! To get a degree in the University, you have to pass your exams! There are no exams, no test for God’s love. He has chosen us already! This is very hard for us to take in! Because most of the love we have experienced from others in our lives, has been conditional! all we have heard is: “I will love you if…! if you do what I say; if you stay quiet; “And I will love you when…” when you stop drinking; When you keep away from bad friends!
If we could accept that we are loved by God, beyond our wildest dreams, then we could be transformed! then we could be liberated from our own smallness – from our desire for revenge – from our hanging onto hurts from the past – from our negative toxic remarks. There is an old song called: “No mirrors in My nana’s House” written by Ysaye Barnwell. In the song, a little girl is being brought up in her granny’s house in a very poor neighbourhood! She says her Granny’s house has no mirrors! one of her friends asks: “Then, how did you know what you looked like?” “Well”, said the little girl, “my nana told me! You see, every morning I would get up, and get dressed, and comb my hair! And then I would go to my nana, and I would say: “how do I look?” And she would tell me that I am beautiful. She said my skin is smooth, and golden brown, kissed by the sun! In my nana’s house, there were no mirrors, so I saw myself through my nana’s eyes, who loved me!” Wow! If we could only see ourselves through god’s eyes who loves us, what a picture we would be! For in God’s house, there are no mirrors; And we are just beautiful in his eyes, and that makes us so happy. I finish with a few lines from “No mirrors in my Nana’s house”:
“There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house, And the beauty that I saw, was in her eyes.
I never knew that my skin was too black,
And I never knew that my nose was too flat,
And I never knew that my clothes didn’t fit,
And I never knew there were things that I missed!
For the beauty in everything was in her eyes.
Child, look deep into my eyes!”
Yes! You are beautiful in the eyes of God. Amen.
Scripture readings: Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
Reflections and Prayers by Fr Jack Finnegan SDB
1st Reading – Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48
As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, knelt at his feet and prostrated himself. But Peter helped him up. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘I am only a man after all!’
Then Peter addressed them: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.’
While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on the pagans too, since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God. Peter himself then said, ‘Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the
Holy Spirit just as much as we have?’ He then gave orders for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they begged him to stay on for some days.
As we move towards the end of the Easter season our thoughts turn expectantly towards the Holy Spirit. We see this change of emphasis in the story of Cornelius, a story that marks the beginning of the mission to the Gentiles, to people like us. The importance of the story is made clear in Acts. The whole of chapter ten is given to it (today’s reading forms the closing part). Chapter 11 tells how Peter reported back to Jerusalem on the story, and chapter 15 returns to it in the account of the apostolic council. The striking feature of the story for us is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his companions before they were baptised, a sure sign that the Spirit was doing something new in God’s perfect time. Here we have the Pentecost of the Gentiles! The challenge to us is first to remember how the Spirit blows as the Spirit wills, that God’s timing is always perfect. And then to open our hearts in this perfect moment to the Spirit’s transforming presence. Come, Holy Spirit!
Lord God, thank you for the gift of the Spirit. Thank you for the Pentecost of the Gentiles. How wonderful your timing! How glorious your love! Let us hear your call to love. Let us heed your call to serve our brothers and sisters in their time of need. Let your love whisper like sweet music in the depths of our souls. Help us make your love real in the world. May we love you all our days through Christ the Risen One! Alleluia. Amen!
Psalm – Psalm 97(98):1-4
One of Israel’s enthronement psalms, our responsory today celebrates God’s glorious victory. In the resurrection of Jesus God’s holy arm is victorious over sin and death. God’s saving power has been revealed in the world, a saving power full of kindness and justice, mercy and healing. Our response to such a gift? To break into joyful song and serve the liberation of the oppressed!
LORD, Adonai, we want to sing new songs to you today. We want to thank you with bright songs of joy for the gift of your saving power. How wonderful you are! How glorious your victory! How delightful your loving kindness! How real your love! How sure your faithfulness flowing gloriously from age to age! May the whole cosmos praise you today, the whole earth dance to the glory of your name! Alleluia. Amen!
2nd Reading – 1 John 4:7-10
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,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.
The love of others is the litmus test of our knowledge of and our fidelity to God because God is love. Our love is not meant to be mere talk. It is meant to become real action in the world. We know that God is love because we have experienced that love touching our own lives. Sometimes directly, sometimes through the loving deeds of brothers and sisters, but most of all in the loving gift of Jesus to the world, in his incarnation and work of salvation. Our challenge is to live resurrection life to the full and return love for love.
Father God, thank you for sending us your beloved Son to save us! Lord Jesus, thank you for being the love of God made flesh amongst us! Thank you for being healing love made real in human lives! Holy Spirit, thank you for being love poured out on us every day, love to set the universe on fire! Thank you Holy Trinity! Thank you for your eternal dance of all-embracing love! Alleluia. Amen!
Gospel Reading – John 15:9-17
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’
Greek has a way of saying things that we lack in English. The grammar in today’s gospel bears special attention because it tells us that God’s love is always a concrete act, something real and tangible. There is nothing abstract about it. God loves Jesus. Jesus loves the Father. The Father sends the Son to us and Jesus comes to us in love. Jesus tells us to love one another. In today’s gospel St John is not speculating about God’s love but telling us what actually happened. Jesus came to us because of love and then lived that love in concrete ways. Our challenge is to make our loving action concrete in the world, to make it something real in real deeds. Friends of Jesus first, touched by his expansive love, we have the power to befriend the cosmos. In just such ways practical love reveals transformed hearts, spacious hearts as open as the heart of Jesus, hearts with the creative imagination for deeds that are concrete and real. Can we make that love real where we are? Resurrection love is real. It flows into action. Are we up to the challenge?
Lord Jesus, how wonderful to be your friend, to be touched by your resurrection love and life! Help us ever to remain in your love. Help us to remain in you in all we do. Wrap us in your Spirit of Love. As you remain in the Father’s love so let us remain through you. As you are filled with the Father’s love so let us be filled through you! May your bright Trinitarian love be our true home, our holy ground, the cause of our joy, the meaning of our lives, the truth in our relationships, the proof of our friendship with you, the true light in our eyes! Be our teacher in all that we do as we seek to make your love real in the world and let resurrection life flow! Alleluia. Amen!