Ven, 07 Mag 21 Lectio Divina - Anno B
Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26,34-35,44-48, 1 John 4:7-10, John 15:9-17
The theme of the first reading is the gift of the Holy Spirit comes to Cornelius and his household, and they are baptized. It continues the story of the early Church. As Peter baptizes Cornelius, the first gentile convert, we are reminded of our theme: God's generous love is for all, ‘God does not have favorites’ anybody ‘who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him. Like Cornelius, we too have, through our baptismal sharing in the Paschal Mystery, been given to share in the mystery of the love of the Father and the Son.
The second reading speaks about God's love. The Father's love, John's letter tells us, was expressed in our midst when he ‘sent into the world his only Son, so that we could have life in him. The words of Jesus in John's gospel remind us how complete is the gift, which he brings, is an expression of the love which he shares with the Father: ‘A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friend’.
In the Gospel reading, we hear Jesus commands his disciples to love one another. Standing out in today's readings is the theme of love. What more important theme is there for our restless human hearts? Yet it is so often trivialized and distorted in today's popular culture. From our earliest years, we have learned to know what genuine love is, not from lessons in words, but by being loved ourselves. Today's readings invite us to recognize that the Paschal Mystery that is the center of our Easter celebration is an expression of God's love for us, and an invitation to enter into the love of Jesus and his Father and to give it expression in our own lives. True love expresses itself in action rather than in words.
Genuine love is an unselfish gift. It seeks the good of the beloved rather than its own benefit. God's love is an outreach of utter generosity; it comes before any response on our part, as John's letter points out. And our response can give nothing to God except the joy in the heart of the selfless giver. As we contemplate the mystery of God's generosity, we are reminded that, in the end, love is the most precious of all gifts. If it is true that true joy is the finding of what our hearts are made for, then a love that is genuine brings a joy which is without compare: ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you … I have told you this that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete’. The fruit of genuine love is the intimacy of friendship – sharing all that matters in one's life with the beloved: ‘You are my friends … I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father’.'.
Coming to a deeper appreciation of the love the Father and the Son have for us, expressed in the Paschal Mystery, we will find new enthusiasm and energy for the outreach which must express our life in Christ during the coming week: ‘You did not choose me, no I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit’
Jesus recognizes that the love he gives is the love that he has received from his Father. Now he invites his disciples to receive this love so that they, in turn, might bring it to others. Such love will always be a source of joy both for the person giving and the person receiving. Jesus gives the disciples his life-giving message in a nutshell – to love as he has loved, total self-giving for the sake of the other – a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. The words that Jesus speaks about friendship define the quality of his mature relationship with his disciples – not superior or inferior, master or servant – but a relationship of equals on the level ground. His great hope for the disciples is that this friendship will continue to inspire and that his disciples will blossom and flourish in the proclamation of his love…” I have commissioned you to go out and bear fruit…”
“My command to you is to love one another” (Jn 15:17). This reciprocal relationship is repeated immediately after in an incisive command: “remain in my love.” Jesus goes from the verb “to love”, to the substantive “love”, to show that the action flowing from the Father through the Son to humanity has created a new order of things, a possibility which was unthinkable until then.
The final verses of our passage recall the image of the vine with the added statements above: It is Jesus who has chosen His disciples, not the other way around. The initiative is His. However, the image of the vine planted in the soil is presented differently. The disciples are called so that they may go, and it is in this going that they will bear fruit; then the fruit is meant to remain.
Jesus’ words just before his glorification tell the Church the meaning of following Him and His demands. They are strong words, mirroring the glory of Him who will freely give His life for the salvation of the world. They are also precise words: simple, essential, close, connected and typical of a farewell discourse where repetition becomes a pressing and gentle appeal. To be a disciple of Christ is, first of all, a gift: it is He who has chosen His own. It is He who has revealed to them His mission, and in doing so, has revealed the “background” of the plan of salvation: the will of the Father, the love between Father and Son, which is now communicated to humanity.
The knowledge of the love between Father and Son will demand options so as not to remain in an empty and sterile pretense. “Remain” in the love of Jesus and observe His “commandments” is above all a revelation, the gift of a supreme possibility that frees people from a servile state even concerning God and places them in a new, full and reciprocal relationship with Him, typical of friendship. Formed in steadfastness and going to bear lasting fruit is what defines the task of the disciples after the Pasch of the Lord, but in our passage, this is connected with the invitation to ask the Father in Jesus’ name. It is, then, from the Father, in Christ and with the power of the Consoler that will come to the grace to love, and in loving, to bear witness.
Having experienced the pain and sorrow of the crucifixion, then the joy and new life of the resurrection, the followers of Jesus now have to face the reality of the Risen Lord’s departure – again. He senses their confusion, pain and sense of loss. But before he leaves them, he gives those two parting gifts; The Holy Spirit and his own Peace. He prepares them for the road ahead by strengthening and encouraging them with His risen life through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and his own inner Peace. He is sending them out to proclaim the good news, but he does not expect them to do it on their own.
Encouraged by His presence they will never be alone or helpless and neither are we, who are the community of believers today. We are asked to face our daily reality and lives not just with optimism but with faith and hope in the risen Jesus and each other. Through celebrating and sharing in the resurrection, each of us also shares in and experiences the Peace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. As we continue our journey through Easter, we will be blest with the gifts of Christ’s Peace and encouraged by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The greatest miracles in our life were fruits of love. The way our parents nursed and cared for us, free of charge, is already a miracle. Stories of heroism and courage, told and untold, abound throughout human history; and countless sacrifices have been offered on the altar of love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Indeed, love conquers all. Miracles do happen because of love. We cannot talk of love without action. And this is the miracle that should happen every day in this world: when we learn to love in deed and in truth. A simple imagination will show us the great wonderful possibilities if we are able to do it: because of love, enemies are reconciled, warring countries re-establish peaceful and harmonious relationships, families are united and happy, the poor and hungry are attended to, criminals mend their ways, resources and blessings are generously shared among people, the truth is proclaimed, justice and peace prevail, kindness and generosity rule in society.
The first action in relation to love is obedience to God’s commandments. “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” (Jn 15:10). The commandments of God are not meant to make our life difficult; rather they are meant to help us practice love more readily. Through obedience to God’s commandments, we show not only our love of God but also express our renewed relationship with Him
Life is difficult. Life is full of troubles. But these do not give us reason to complain to God. Rather, as we always say that “necessity is the mother of inventions,” so also difficulties and troubles in life are opportunities to practice and show love, and to prove once and for all that we are true followers of Jesus: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have a love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
May we thank God For the gift of friendship offered through Jesus and do everything in our power to remain and grow in that privileged relationship.