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Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2009 (Cycle B) Scripture Readings First Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2009 (Cycle B)

Scripture Readings First Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 Second 1 Jn 4:7-10 Gospel Jn 15:9-17

Prepared by: Fr. Lawrence J. Donohoo, O.P.


Subject Matter

First Reading: The Holy Spirit confirms Peter’s insight that the Gospel is now meant for all peoples, not simply the Jews.

Second Reading: Love in the most fundamental sense is divine love, which is the basis and cause of human love.

Gospel: The Father’s love of the Son, reflected in the Son’s love of his disciples, presumes the response of obedience to Christ’s command to love.


Exegetical Notes

Re Acts 11:45: “poured out: This vb. is an explicit echo of Joel’s prophecy applied to Pentecost (2:17- 18, 33); 11:15 will formally state the connection implied here.” (NJBC)

Re Acts 11:47: “can anyone forbid: Here is the target of the story’s several notices of the divine control of its action. The Spirit has moved, the institution can only follow.” (NJBC)

Re John 12-17: “The reader has already seen the love that Jesus has for his ‘friends’ demonstrated in


the Lazarus

.The term ‘friends’ appears in Philo as a designation for the ‘wise’ who are ‘friends

of God’ and not ‘slaves’ of

.Wis 7:27 also speaks of the ‘wise’ as God’s friends. Here, this

tradition is applied to all who believe. It is not the privilege of a select few.” (NJBC)


References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

761 The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.

1226 From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus:

Jews, the God-fearing, pagans. Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith.

221 St. John goes even further when he affirms that “God is love”: God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.

733 “God is Love” and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

1604 God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man.

1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”

1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own “to the end,” he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!” Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.

1972 The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who “does not know what his master is doing” to that of a friend of Christ - “For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” - or even to the status of son and heir.

  • 4. Patristic Commentary

“Who doubts that love precedes the observance of the commandments? For the one who does not love does not possess that by which he can keep the commandments. These words then do not declare the

origin of love, but rather how it is manifested in order that no one might deceive himself into thinking

that he loved our Lord when in fact he did not keep his

commandments. . . .

Continue in my love, then,

means, continue in my grace. And if you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love, which means, your keeping my commandments will be evidence to you that you abide in my love. It is not that we first keep his commandments and that he then loves us, but that he loves us and then we keep his commandments.” (St. Augustine)

“As my Father has loved me, so do love I you. The grace of a Mediator is expressed here; and Christ is Mediator between God and man, not as God, but as man.” (St. Augustine)

“Even as













commandments were: Christ became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). (Alcuin)

“But when all of our Lord’s sacred discourses are full of his commandments, why does he give this special commandment respecting love, if it is not that every commandment teaches love and all precepts are one? Love and love only is the fulfillment of everything that is enjoined. As all the boughs of a tree proceed from one root, so all the virtues are produced form one love. Nor has the branch, i.e. the good work, any life, unless it abide in the root of love.” (St. Gregory the Great)

  • 5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

Bringing together today’s themes in his own life, St. Francis Xavier understood his missionary activity as the task of bringing Christ’s love to the nations.

The Church’s mystics (“I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father”), missionaries (“[I] chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain”), and martyrs (“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”) all find their justification and consolation in today’s Gospel.

  • 6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

“The essence of Christianity is not an idea but a Person. Great theologians have tried to describe the essential ideas that make up Christianity. But in the end, the Christianity that they constructed was not convincing, because Christianity is in the first place an Event, a Person. And thus in the Person we discover the richness of what is contained.”

“The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor is emphasized. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether. Saint John’s words should rather be interpreted to mean that love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.”

“God is not totally invisible to us; he does not remain completely inaccessible. God loved us

. and this love of God has appeared in our midst. He has become visible in as much as he ‘has sent his

only Son into the world, so that we might live through him’ (1 Jn 4:9). God has made himself visible:

in Jesus we are able to see the Father (cf. Jn 14:9).”

“God is visible in a number of ways. In the love-story recounted by the Bible, he comes towards us, he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path. Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist. In the Church’s Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives.”

“He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has ‘loved us first,’ love can also blossom as a response within us.”

“Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of

.Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”

concern. . .

“The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.”


Other Considerations

A major theme of Acts, largely introduced in the passages concerning Peter and Cornelius, is the theological justification of making the riches of Christ’s redemptive work available to the Gentiles. In ecclesial terms, this offers a key Scriptural foundation for a theology of mission. In personal terms, it invites reflection on the domains of my individual soul that remain pagan and have yet to hear the Good News.

“[S]ince Jesus does not think of us as slaves, neither should we regard ourselves that way, no matter how much we may feel enslaved by the urges of our passions, emotions, and longings. Since Jesus reveals to us what the mastery is about, we authoritatively wield the Lord’s ultimate mastery over all human drives. We must accept this truth about ourselves in God’s sight before we attempt to apply ourselves to his commands.” (Cameron)

Certain teachings of Jesus on certain subjects presuppose our knowledge of these subjects taken from our common human experience, e.g. forgiveness--and in today’s readings, love. Yet divine revelation not only takes human teaching much further, it requires that it be reset in divine terms. A strong Scriptural statement for this “reversal” is found in 1 Jn. 4:10, where John clearly states that the paradigm and essence of love is divine, not human love. God’s love for himself and for us.

In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis discusses in some detail the four basic kinds of human love: affection (familial love), Eros and Venus (romantic and erotic love), friendship, and charity (divine and human). The two testaments of Scripture portray God’s love in all of these terms: Jesus’ primary revelation of God as Father (affection), the Lord as husband of Israel (e.g., Hos 3:1, Is. 62:5), God as divine friend (his relationship with Abraham, Moses, his covenant with Israel, and the theme of many psalms, e.g., 143), and charity (e.g., Is. 43:1-4). Divine love, then, is scripturally expressed in quite human terms. Yet it is necessary that we reverse our thinking and understand divine love as the paradigm of these human loves, not an instance. In other words, human loves must be defined in divine terms, not the other way around.

Many descriptions of God are given in Scripture, but only three approach the status of “definitions”: “I am who am” (Ex. 3;14), “God is light” (1 Jn. 1:5), and “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). These three descriptions already carry a profound significance in the prior Covenant, but they are taken to new heights in the New Covenant through the revelation of the Son of God.

While some human loves are more natural than others in the sense that they are “given” with the nature, especially affection and romantic/erotic love, all of them require personal development and virtuous cultivation. The human tasks of raising natural love to personal love--that is, personally owning them, tailoring them to our personality, and developing them through virtue--and raising personal love to a share in divine love—find their divine models in God’s love of Israel and Christ’s love for his disciples. The human person who loves divinely does not experience different kinds of love, but the same kinds of love differently.

Recommended Resources

Benedict XVI. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Edited by Peter John Cameron. Yonkers:

Magnificat, 2006.

Deus Caritas Est.

____________. Brown, Raymond A., Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1990. Cameron, Peter John. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach - Cycle B. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels. Works of the Fathers. Vol. 4, London, 1843. Reprinted by The St. Austin Press, 1997.