REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

OUR LOVE IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT SACRIFICE.

First Reading: Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 97(98):1-4
Second reading: 1 John 4:7-10
Gospel Reading: John 15:9-17
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In Greek literature, love was often categorized into several distinct types, each with its own nuances and meanings. These categories offered a nuanced understanding of the complex emotion of love. “Eros,” (Έρως) for example, is a type of love often associated with passionate, romantic love, characterized by desire, longing, and physical attraction. Eros was depicted as a powerful, sometimes irrational force that could consume individuals. It was often portrayed as fleeting and transient, focused primarily on physical beauty and attraction. “Philia” (Φιλία) type of love is often translated as “brotherly love” or “friendship.” Philia represents the deep bond and affection between friends or companions. It is based on mutual respect, trust, and shared experiences. Among many other categories of love, “Agape” – (Αγάπη) is often referred to as selfless (altruistic), unconditional love. It is a transcendent and spiritual love that extends beyond the individual and encompasses all of humanity. Agape is characterized by compassion, empathy, and altruism. It is not dependent on personal gain or reciprocity but is given freely and generously. In Christian theology, agape is often equated with divine love, exemplified by the love of God for humanity and the love that believers are called to show towards others. Beloved friends in Christ, this is the kind of love (agape) intertwined with philia that characterizes this Sunday’s readings, as centralized in the gospel, spoken by Jesus, which he calls us to put into action: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you.”

Jesus, in today’s gospel reading (cf. John 15:9-17), speaks to his disciples in the context of the Last Supper, just before his crucifixion. He has been preparing them for his departure, teaching them about the importance of abiding in him and bearing fruit (as we read in last Sunday’s gospel reading). In these final moments together, Jesus imparts pertinent instructions and words of encouragement to his apostles. The passage begins with Jesus reaffirming the intimate relationship he shares with his disciples, likening it to the love between himself and the Father: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” He stresses the importance of remaining in his love, setting the stage for the central message of the passage, which is his “commandment” of love: to love one another as he has loved them. The Greek word for “commandment” used in the passage is “ἐντολάς ” (entolás), which is the accusative plural form of “ἐντολή” (entolé), the word for commandment.” This word is understood to mean a directive, order, command, law, or instruction given with authority. Its deep significance lies in its connection to obedience and discipleship. This commandment serves as the cornerstone of Christian ethics, emphasizing selfless love and sacrificial service. Jesus models this love by illustrating the ultimate act of devotion: laying down one’s life for friends.

When Jesus tells them (in verse 12) to “love one another as I have loved you,” the Greek verb for “love” used here is “ἀγαπᾶτε” (agapate), which is derived from the root “ἀγαπάω” (agapaó). This verb form, “ἀγαπᾶτε” (agapate) is in the imperative mood, present tense, and active voice. This indicates a command (imperative mood), ongoing action (present tense), and that the subject (you, plural) performs the action (active voice). The imperative mood emphasizes the urgency and importance of the command to love. Thus, Jesus commands his disciples to “ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους” (agapate allēlous), which translates to “love one another.” This love, “ἀγαπᾶτε” (agapate) refers to selfless, sacrificial love. This type of love is characterized by unconditional care, compassion, and goodwill toward others. It is not merely a suggestion but a directive from Jesus himself. The present tense emphasizes the continuous nature of this love—it is not a one-time action but an ongoing commitment to love others consistently. By connecting the command to love with his own example of sacrificial love (“as I have loved you”), Jesus sets a high standard for his disciples. He becomes the model of love, and calls his disciples—and by extension, all believers—to emulate this love in their own lives, which is characterized by humility, selflessness, compassion, forgiveness, generosity towards others, and willingness to lay down one’s life for others. The message of the passage is clear: true love is characterized by selflessness and sacrifice. Jesus demonstrates this love in its fullest expression through his impending death on the cross, which he willingly endures out of love for humanity.

Furthermore, Jesus elevates the disciples from mere servants to beloved friends, indicating the depth of intimacy and trust in their relationship. This friendship is not based on merit or performance but on the unconditional love and grace of Christ, not only for his disciples, but also for all believers throughout time. That is why in the First Reading (from Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48), we see the extension of this inclusive love to the Gentiles through the ministry of Peter. Initially, Peter hesitates to enter the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, due to the Jewish cultural norms of the time. However, he is instructed by the Holy Spirit not to discriminate based on ethnicity or social status but to embrace all who fear God and do what is right. As Peter preaches to Cornelius and his household, the Holy Spirit falls upon them, demonstrating God’s acceptance of the Gentiles into the community of believers. This event challenges the traditional boundaries of religious exclusivity and expands the reach of God’s love to include people from every nation and background. Here, we see that God’s love transcends cultural, social, and religious barriers. Jesus’ friendship with his disciples serves as a model for the inclusive love that we believers are called to embody, welcoming all into the community of faith with open arms. As recipients of God’s grace and friendship, we are called to extend the same love and acceptance to others, recognizing that we are all beloved friends of Christ, regardless of our differences.

Building on these antecedents, the Second Reading (from 1 John 4:7-10) reinforces the centrality of love and its foundational role in the Christian life, offering practical lessons for us to embody God’s love in our lives and relationships. The passage declares that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), highlighting love as the very essence of God’s character. This reflects Jesus’ commandment to love one another (in the gospel) and the inclusive nature of God’s love demonstrated in the First Reading. We are called to love one another because love originates from God. As recipients of God’s love, we are to reflect that love in our relationships with others (cf. 1 John 4:7). This illustrates Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to love one another as he has loved them. John then goes on to point to the ultimate expression of love in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for our sins (1 John 4:9-10). This mirrors Jesus’ own demonstration of love in laying down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Therefore, beloved friends in Christ, just as Peter welcomed Gentiles into the community of believers, we are called to embrace all people with love and acceptance, regardless of differences or backgrounds. Our love is incomplete without sacrifice. Our love for others should mirror the selfless and sacrificial love of Christ, serving as a reflection of God’s love for us. Love is not merely a feeling but is demonstrated through action. We are called to show love through acts of kindness, compassion, and service to others. Love has the power to transform lives and communities. It elevates individuals from mere acquaintances to beloved friends and fosters deep intimacy and trust. Through acts of sacrificial love, barriers are broken down, and lives are changed. Above all, we should bear in mind that obedience to God’s commandments is grounded in love. As recipients of God’s love, we respond by loving Him and loving others. This love motivates us to obey His commands and reflect His love in our actions. As followers of Christ, we are called to embody and extend this love to all, reflecting the love of God in our lives and communities.

Shalom!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Seminário Padre Pedro Magnone, São Paulo, Brazil
nozickcjoe@gmail.com / fadacjay@gmail.com

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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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Michael Umande
Michael Umande
18 days ago

Obedience to God’s commandments is grounded in love. Thank you for the rich homily Padre. God bless and keep you. Amen

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