Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 14:21-27 / Ps 145 / Rev 21:1-5a / Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Each Sunday after Easter, God’s messages through the readings help us in living our everyday lives. The main theme of today’s readings is that Jesus’ disciples are recognized by the people around Him because they follow His commandment of love.
There are four elements through which Jesus wants to make His presence among His disciples during His lifetime and after His resurrection. These four elements are: the cross, prayer, Eucharist, and love.
The first element is the cross. Jesus says, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:38, Lk 14:27) Crucifixion was a form of Roman punishment during Jesus’ time, especially for criminals and rebels. When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die, to the place of execution.
For us, to carry the cross is a figurative expression which means that we must endure whatever is burdensome, trying, or is considered disgraceful in following our Lord, Jesus Christ. The cross is the symbol of doing our Christian duty, even at the cost of the most painful death, just like Jesus Christ, who obeyed God and carried out His work for the salvation of all, though it required Him to die upon the cross in order to do it.
The second element is prayer. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20) The best secret to unanswered prayer for whatever we need, is asking it in Jesus’ name, and not in the name of revenge, of consolation or pleasure, of an easy way out, of fame or shame, of good works or recompense for charitable donations.
First and foremost, our prayer must never be selfish. Selfish prayer cannot find an answer. We are not meant to pray only for our own needs, thinking of nothing and no one but ourselves. We are meant to pray as members of a Christian community. When prayer is unselfish, it is always answered. Let us always remember that the answer to our prayers is not according to our wish, but the will of the Father through Jesus Christ. That is why we should not separate ourselves from His Son.
The third element is the Eucharist. Matthew 26:26 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take and eat. This is My body.’” At the Last Supper, Jesus eats a Passover meal with His disciples in view of His passion, death, and resurrection. The bread now is Jesus’ body, being broken and given to His disciples and to all of us. The wine is now Jesus’ blood, poured out for the redemption of the world. At Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Jesus. The bread that we eat is not a symbol of Christ’s body, but really is His body.
The last element is love. Jesus says in today’s gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Jesus gives us this new commandment that we should love one another because He loves us. This teaching of Jesus about loving one another takes different forms.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:39) Ordinarily, for Jewish people, a neighbor is only a fellow Jew. But for Jesus, the term neighbor includes any individual who is in need of help. That is what we understand in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Every person in need, whether he lives next door or a town away, whether she is beautiful or ugly, is a neighbor.
Jesus asks His disciples to use as a measure in loving other people, the love they have for themselves. They are to treat another person as their own flesh and bone. That is not an easy thing to do. We normally have different standards for ourselves as compared to others. The natural tendency is to give ourselves first priority or utmost care and to provide others with less or even no attention. By asking us to love a neighbor as our own self, the Lord simply is helping us overcome what we call narcissistic tendencies. We all belong to the one body of Christ, and we need to behave like we really are part of one another.
In today’s gospel, Jesus presents an even more demanding version of the commandment to love. He says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34-35) The Lord teaches His disciples to use as their standard for loving, not only their love for themselves, but His love for them. He knows that our way of loving can easily be tainted with selfish motivations. Hence, He challenges us to love one another according to the way He has loved us.
But the question is, what is this Christ-like love? It is a love that is agape. A love in spite of and not “love if” or “love because.” Agape is unconditional love: a love that is not motivated by how lovable the other person is. It does not say, I’ll love you if you become valedictorian of your class, or very successful. Or I’ll love you if you can afford to buy me a beautiful car, etc. It is love for even the unlovable, including the poor and one’s enemies. His love is self-sacrificing, unselfish, unselective. The love of Jesus is also not merited love which is bestowed on those who possess adorable qualities. It never says: I love you because you are considerate. I love you because you are faithful.
We are all called by Jesus to do the same thing: to love each one not because he or she is lovable, but in spite of the fact that he or she may not be lovable. We are to love even our enemies and sinners also.
There was a little girl who was born without an ear. She became a shy and introverted person. There were times when she would go home crying because her classmates made fun of her. When she became a teenager, her mother took her to a surgeon who performed an ear transplant on her. The operation was successful, and she became a normal and happy person. Not long after, she had a boyfriend. After several years, they decided to get married. On the eve of her wedding day, she went inside her mother’s room to thank her. As she embraced her, she noticed something strange, something absent. She realized that beneath the long hair of her mother was a missing ear. She cried and said, “It was you! All these years you didn’t tell me it was you.” The mother replied, “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to be sad for me. I did it because I want you to be happy, to see you happy with your life. You don’t lose something when you give it to someone you love.”
I recently received a text message from a friend that will make us reflect about life and love. It says, “LIFE is a four-letter word that is very meaningful. L stands for love. I stands for inspiration. F stands for forgiveness. E stands for everlasting. No matter who, what, where, and when you found life, always remember, only God can satisfy your life.”