Today’s reflection is for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here. It was offered as a reflection after the 6pm vigil Mass at O.L.A., in Turlock.
Last week we saw that God called seven reputable men, filled with wisdom and the Spirit, to serve him and his people. Today we see one of those Deacons, Philip, proclaiming Christ to the people of Samaria. And the result of his love is baptism, Confirmation, and great joy; all because Philip obeyed both The Great Commission and the Great Commandment. And they are intimately connected.
I’d like to see a show of hands for this next question: Do you love Jesus? If you love Jesus, just raise your hand right up. It’s safe, I can’t see you. We’re live-streaming, you know. Go on, raise your hand if you love Jesus. In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” We love him…do we keep his commandments? Do we even know what his commandments are?
The Great Commandment is found in all four Gospels. In MT, MK and LK Jesus says to love God and love your neighbor. In John 13:34, which came just before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” That’s it. Easy peasy. Jesus makes it super simple for us—love. Period. That is it. (song) They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say our Rosary is how all will know that we are his. Nor does he say that our Holy Family prayer card will do it. Not our Catechism, our books, our bumper stickers, our medallions, Bibles, bracelets, necklaces, or even our “I love Jesus” tattoo. The defining characteristic of a disciple of Jesus Christ is whether or not we love others—especially those most in need. That’s it. I once heard asked, “If you were put on trial today for being a Christian, would they find enough evidence to convict you.”
What does love look like in our world? Is it puppies and pancakes, butterflies, unicorns, and rainbows? Well…maybe… “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1COR13) If you want a beautiful meditation on this verse insert your name wherever the word, “Love,” appears. “Stephen is patient. Stephen is kind. Stephen is not quick-tempered…” Stephen has a lot of work to do. I’m not loving Jesus, am I? I’m not obeying his commandments. “If you love me,” the Lord said, “you will keep my commandments.”
You know, Philip loved greatly, didn’t he? St. Pope John Paul II said, “Love wills the good of another.” Love desires what is good, not for oneself, but for others. This is very un-American these days, I’m afraid. Nowadays we hear, “You deserve it!” “Look out for #1.” “You gotta do you!” But that’s not at all what Jesus did or taught. He did exactly the opposite! He took on human suffering. He took on human sin. He fed, healed, cared for, and gave up his own life so others might live! We cannot both claim to love and follow him, and at the same time not sacrifice our comfort, our pleasure, and our security, for others. When we love others enough to sacrifice our life—only then are we are completely his.
That, my brothers and sisters, is what it means to fulfill the Great Commission that Philip was all about in today’s first reading. The last thing Jesus told his disciples was, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” (MT 28) That is proclaiming Christ. And that is exactly what Philip was doing in Samaria. By what he said and by what he did, Philip proclaimed Christ. “The crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip and saw the signs he was doing.” St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” By word and deed, we love.
Following The Great Commission and the Great Commandment is not only the work of Nuns, Priests, and Deacons, it is the work of everyone who calls Jesus Lord. It is your job. It is mine. From the youngest to the oldest, the democrat, the republican, the immigrant, the richest and the poorest; all of us are not only called, but also capable of love, and nothing less is required.
And that, finally, is the value of rosaries, and prayer cards, and statues, and bibles, and catechisms, and tattoos—they are instructors and reminders. They teach us how to love in this situation or that, and they remind us to love when we desire to love the least. But I promise you this, if we learn to love, are reminded to love, and by doing so proclaim Christ, we will shine like the sun. Others will draw near to his light in us, be baptized in His name, receive the Holy Spirit, and there will be joy in their heart, in that city, and in our world. Love. Period. I’ll be praying for you, please do the same for me.