May 6, 2018

6th Sunday of Easter: " I chose you" - to love

"It was I who chose you . . . to go and bear fruit"

John 15: 9-17

The popular Broadway play “Cabaret” has a song with a catchy tune entitled: “Money makes the world go round.”  While the subject matter of the play is questionable, as always in a Broadway musical, we remember the tunes more than we may remember the theme of the play.  In a sense, its true that money does make things happen and keeps things moving forward.  We all know that much good can be done with finances properly spent.

However, there is another power in the world that is far more significant than money.  Our Gospel this Sunday reveals what Jesus offers to us and the indelible mark of every Christian and every Christian community – that is love.  Jesus advises us: “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.” What distinguishes the Christian faith from other world religions is the universal emphasis, and we hear Jesus’ hope for all his disciples, on love and forgiveness.  That all, without distinction or prejudice, are invited to share in the life of “agape” which our Lord offers us.  That the love we extend to others comes back and grows within us which then creates a fellowship, “agape,” of unity and community.

Even more fundamental to our Christian way of life, as Bishop Robert Barron comments, is the last part of today’s Gospel.  There Jesus tells us: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you . . .” If it is true, then, that God is choosing us first, then rather than thinking that my actions and choices will “make me holy,” the right attitude is really one of surrender to God’s will and not to come before God saying, “look how hard I’m trying, don’t I deserve something for this?” But rather to make myself available, to allow myself to be found by God and to move with the grace he offers me.  

Our second reading also from John reinforces this great truth: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” What could be more reassuring, more incredible than to know we have a God who is in search for us.  The mystery of his grace moves within us creating a desire for prayer, a hunger for himself that can only be fulfilled when we surrender to his invitation and allow ourselves to be found by him. 

Why?  This is a God who reaches out and desires to covenant himself with us; to make us not strangers but his friends: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing.  I have called your friends, because I have told you everything . . . “ 
Like friends to one another, Jesus reminds us that in walking his way, we create an atmosphere of friendship with him and submit to his search.  He is shepherd, we are sheep; he is vine, we are branches; he is God and we are called to be his friends.  And so with one another to express that bond in love. 

That is the Easter message he leaves us.  And in order to cement that for all time, he offers us a gift of friendship – himself in the Holy Eucharist.  Any gift I give to you is a sign of my respect and love.  While God does not separate gift from giver, he does so by making himself the very gift he gives; his presence in the Eucharist. 

Through that gift of his love we then create a bond of community between us with Christ himself as the head.  That is a unity of oneness.  All we need do is take a look around our parish Churches on a Sunday morning and we see the inclusiveness and diversity of a Church universal.  If you’ve ever had the experience of attending a public audience of the Pope on a Wednesday morning in Rome, you see there the universal nature of the Church as people from everywhere gather to share that moment with the Holy Father.

Are we perfect in all we do?  Of course not.  We have sin, imperfection, prejudice, and other forms of anti-love among us.  We have to constantly work at rooting out what divides us and support and grow towards the agape, fellowship in Christ, that Jesus desires and offers us.

What is the model for this?  Some of what I’ve mentioned but also his reminder that we must love, and stay united, as he is with the Father in heaven.  His commandments (Mosaic Covenant on Sinai, the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount) provide us a guide.  If we follow them, true fellowship will happen for then we are united with Christ, primarily at Mass through the Holy Eucharist, and the kind of “love” Jesus desires will happen. But to receive that love we must give it away for that is the way of growth in his grace.

As we come soon to the end of our annual Easter season, this is what Jesus hands on to us.  Is there anything else greater, even money that will make the world go round?  I think not since this kind of love, by its nature, has the potential to bring humanity together.

Grant, almighty God, 
that we may celebrate with heartfelt 
devotion these days of joy, 
which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,
and that what we relive in remembrance we may
always hold to in what we do. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity 
of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 

(Collect of Mass)