6th Sunday of Easter – May 5, 2024

Post Date: May 1, 2024
Author: Ric Cross

Love One Another

A Reflection on the Readings for the 6th Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2024

Reading 1: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Reading 2: 1 Jn 4:7-10
Gospel: Jn 15:9-17

As mentioned previously, it is in the season of Easter that our readings each week remind us of the development and spread of the church in the first century. Our first reading this week from chapter 10 of Acts shows us the spread of the church into the Gentile community.

Cornelius is described to us as “devout and God-fearing”, one who generously gave alms to the Jewish people and one who prayed to God constantly. So, we should see him as a generous Gentile, displaying the proper attitude toward wealth, who was observant of Jewish religion and customs without being a convert to Judaism.

Earlier in chapter 10 we are told that Cornelius received a vision of an angel who told him his prayers and almsgiving were received by God as a “memorial offering,” meaning that, although he was a Gentile, his prayer and almsgiving were considered by God as a spiritual offering equal to the offerings made by the Jews in the temple. Therefore, it is clear to us that God accepts the spiritual offerings of Gentiles even though they were forbidden by law from entering the temple. The angel also told Cornelius to send for Peter, who was in the city of Joppa, staying in the house of a man named Simon, a tanner by trade. If this man were a tanner, he would have been considered ritually unclean by the Jews, so it becomes clear that God was preparing Peter to accept Gentiles (also considered ritually unclean) into the Christian community.

Also, earlier in chapter 10, we are told of Peter’s vision of a large sheet being lowered from heaven containing a multitude of unclean animals, and Peter was told to “slaughter and eat,” (observant Jews would never consume an unclean animal). During this vision, Peter was told “what God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” While Peter was trying to understand the meaning of this vision the messengers from Cornelius arrived and asked Peter to return with them to Caesarea, to the home of Cornelius. That is where our first reading picks up the narrative; Peter comes to fully realize that God shows no partiality; and that no person is to be considered profane or unclean because of their genealogy. “Rather, in every nation whoever fears (God) and acts uprightly is acceptable to (God).

The Jews who accompanied Peter to Caesarea were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on these Gentiles in the same way that they, themselves, had received the Spirit, and no one could deny them baptism.

Even our Responsorial Psalm reminds us that God has revealed his saving power to the nations, meaning even to the non-Jews.

Our second reading from the 1st Letter of John contains what is probably my favorite passage in all of scripture: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”

The 1st Letter of John is often referred to as a “love letter” because of its emphasis on love; the love God has for us and the love we are to have for one other. The basic message of this letter (and of the passage above) is that God’s love for us generates our love for God and our love for one another. Knowledge of God and love for one another are inseparable, failure in one of these inevitably leads to failure in the other.

1st John also seems to have been written to combat heresies that were invading the early church; specifically, the heresy of “Docetism,” which denied the humanity of Christ so as not to taint his divinity, and the heresy of “Gnosticism” which believed the appearance of Christ in human form was simply a stepping stone to a higher knowledge of God and Gnostics claimed to have that higher knowledge. Those spreading these heresies are the “Antichrists,” as John refers to them, and the Antichrists were Christians who left the community believing they had greater knowledge of God than the apostles. John combats these Antichrists by affirming that true knowledge of God (and love of God) comes only through the anointing of the Holy Spirit which leads us to all truth.

It should be pointed out that many of these early heresies were not attempts to destroy the church, they were attempts by people with logical minds to “figure out” the mysteries of Christ’s Incarnation, teaching, death, Resurrection, and Ascension. A logical mind cannot comprehend that Christ is totally human and totally divine and cannot comprehend that he was born of a virgin, that he was put to death and then rose from death, and that he ascended into heaven. We accept those principles on faith, not because we have logically figured them out. And we accept them on faith because we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit which leads us to all truth.

Our gospel passage from chapter 15 of The Gospel of John continues the theme of love: As God has loved the Son, so the Son loves us. Jesus sums up his teaching in one simple commandment: “Love one another as I love you.” Once again, as in our second reading; God’s love for us initiates our love for one another. It is not that we have chosen God; God chose us and sent his Holy Spirit upon us. Through that Holy Spirit, God’s love for us is made apparent to us and enables us to love God and to love one another.

One other very significant point in this gospel is that Jesus says to the apostles and, therefore, to us: “I no longer call you slaves …. I call you friends.” This is significant because, in the Old Testament, Moses, Joshua, David, and all the prophets were referred to as servants of God. Only Abraham was referred to as the friend of God (see 2 Chr 20:7 and Is 41:8).  Abraham is also referred to as a friend of God in the New Testament: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called ‘the friend of God’” (Jam 2:23). If we keep his commandments, we, like Abraham, are the friends of God.

Image: Lpi

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