HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A (3)
HOMILY THEME: CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION OF LOVE
By: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
The gospel of today opens with the promise of Jesus to send the Paraclete. Those who will receive the Paraclete are those who keep his commandments. The commandments of Jesus is summarised by love: love God and love your neighbour as yourself. So, our reflection this Sunday will center on Christian civilization of love as a preparation to receive the advocate because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of true love. Christian civilization of love was introduced by Jesus Christ against the backdrop of the notion of love reigning at his time.
It is a movement from the father to the son, from the son to us and from us to others. It consists in giving: The Father gave his only begotten Son to the world, the Son gave us the Spirit, the Spirit gave us His gifts. We ought to continue this process of giving in love. You can give your time, your prayers, even your everything for the sake of love as Jesus gave everything.
What is new about love since it was already in existence before Christ? The Greco-Roman civilization of Jesus’ time had different notions of love (storge, philia, Eros) alongside Judaism which preached “love those who love you, hate those who hate you.” However, Jesus took love to a higher level and gave it a new understanding contrary to what the world look upon. It is a new civilization. In this new civilization love is a new commandment, a new way of thinking and a means to an eternal end. Love moved from parasitismos (a level of relationship where one, the parasite is at the receiving end to the detriment of the other, the host); and symbiosis (a level of relationship where both individuals mutually benefit from each other) to the noble level of kenosis (self- emptying, one empties himself for others to live). This is what Jesus did for our sake (Phil. 2:7). St. Peter reminds us in the 2nd reading: ” For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” Jesus also affirmed this when he said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13).
Love is the identity of God the Father who so loved the world and gave his only begotten son (Jn. 3:16). It is the identity of Jesus who loved his own even unto death (Jn. 13:1). It is the identity of Christians who ought to love as Christ loves.
Christian identity is not in badges or in uniforms. We cannot be identified as Christians by just saying we are Christians. Love is the only evidential identity that makes us belong to Christ: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).
One day an American journalist, watching Mother Teresa as she cared for a dying, dirty man in a street of Calcutta, commented: “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Mother Teresa sharply responded: “Neither would I. I am doing it for the love of Christ.” This is Christ’s civilization of love —a love that expects nothing in return from the beloved. Saint Teresa of Calcutta also said: “if we love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt but more love.”
In our society today love is almost synonymous with selfishness and lust. Christ is calling us to have a rethink on the meaning of love and follow in his civilization. St. Paul summarizes the meaning of love in few words: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends” (1Cor. 13:4.8). The above Pauline definition is the yardstick of measuring genuine relationship. These days, we hear a lot of people talking about their “ex-” in a very bitter and painful manner. Why do we have many “ex- friends”, “ex-wives” and “ex-husbands”? It is because a lot of people are still living in the old civilization. Many relationships are parasitic; money and pleasure are the driving force. Everyone is looking for what to gain from his/her partner/friend and not what to sacrifice.
Many relationships are sustained by a symbiotic condition: if you give me I give you, if you don’t give me I won’t give you. The measure you love me is the the measure you will receive from me. When one partner does not measure up the relationship ends. Consequently, there are so many broken hearts, broken homes and broken futures. Without sacrifice there can be no true love, and without true love life itself is broken. Love can be compared to flowing river which enriches everything it comes across and makes them ever new. This river can be polluted and even dried up by hatred, envy, prejudice, selfishness, inordinate desire, indifference to the sufferings of others, etc. When this water is polluted and dried, everything around it suffers.
Today, let us ask ourselves:
1. Is the sacrifice of Christ my model of love?
2. Am I a parasite in my relationship?
3. Is my love for others based on condition? Am I in a polluted relationship?
Finally, true love prepares us for the coming of the Advocate. If we truly love, we will truly receive the Holy Spirit.