May. 18, 2019

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, 2019

LOVE GLORIFIED IN SUFFERING

Readings: 1st- Acts 14:21-27; 2nd- Rev. 21:1-5; Gospel- Jn. 13:31-33a, 34-35

Suffering is portrayed as a positive element in today’s readings. It starts with the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas across the Jewish and Gentile territories. Paul and Barnabas make new disciples as well as strengthen the old disciples. They remind these disciples of the inevitable fact that hardship occupies a prominent place in the Christian life. Paul and Barnabas encourage them to persevere in the faith with the words, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” These apostles demonstrate great love in their missionary experience which extends to the Gentile territory.

The spirit of perseverance is continued in the second reading. John uses images and symbols intended to give hope and confidence to the persecuted church. In his vision, God has the ultimate victory and will bring everything to perfection at the end of time. Such words are meant to provide for believers a deeper understanding of God’s abiding presence. According to John, God will wipe away every tear from his people’s eyes. He will destroy death and will eliminate grief and mourning in their midst. God’s presence will bring newness in the life of his people.

The gospel passage is mostly the extract from John’s gospel used at the Last Supper. It recounts the betrayal by Judas and the institution of the Sacrament of Love. Within two chapters in this gospel periscope, Jesus uses the word glorification five times: “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once” (Jn. 13:31-32). Jesus speaks intensely here about his imminent death which is the coming hour. Glory means praise and exaltation. Jesus is aware of his imminent death, yet he speaks of it as being glorified. The death of Christ brings to fulfilment the mission for which he came. His death is not a punishment by the Father, otherwise, he wouldn’t be talking about it as being glorified. He remarks that “God will glorify him in himself” meaning that he’s united with the Father through death. Scripture says, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn.13:1). Jesus’ death is the expression of God’s love for humanity.

A second aspect of that gospel shows the implication of Christ’s death. Here, we are presented with the relationship between death and his love. His death is the sacrifice which he offers for humanity. In this sacrifice is the image of God’s love as he says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Christ offers us his body and blood upon the Cross. He institutes for us the commandment of love. The challenge is that we have to imitate Christ’s love in our relationship with others. Christ maintains, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn. 13:34). Can we really love one another as Christ loved us? Can we love to the point of death?

Let us recognize that love involves sacrifice. Love is not leisure. It is not an activity of convenience. Love is demanding. To love one another as Christ loved us is a Christian duty and a responsibility that we owe. It’s a sacrifice that we must make. Loving sacrificially becomes the way to glorify God. Let’s therefore see love as service to God in response to the love of Christ for us. Christ died on the Cross for love. He forgave. He prayed for his executioners. He pardoned sinners. He opened his arms wide to welcome everyone to the Father’s embrace. He tells us, “so you also should love one another.” Let us imitate Christ in his sacrifice in our love for others- family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, immigrants, homeless, naked, poor, depressed, lonely, hungry, etc. By loving sacrificially, everyone will recognize that we are disciples of Christ.