YEAR C: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER
TOPIC: TRUE CHRISTIAN LOVE
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Jn 13:31-35 (The New Commandment)
“Offer Me Fragrant Flowers”
- The Marian Message
a) We are now in the month of May. It is traditionally celebrated as the month of Mary. The reason is obvious: during this month, flowers are in bloom. As expression of our filial devotion and love, we bring flowers to Mary. That is why there is the Mayflower devotion. This devotion is not about the flowers, but about Mary. In fact, one Marian title is “Rosa Mystica” (Mystical Rose). It is fitting that, even in the secular world, the celebration of Mothers’ Day is in May. Mary is the mother of all humanity. Mothers’ Day, first and foremost, belongs to her.
b) The name “Rosary” comes from “rose”, a certain kind of flower. And “rosarium” literally means “rose garden”. That is why when we pray the rosary with full devotion and piety, we offer to Mary a garden of roses, which do not wither and die. And this is our way of expressing our love and devotion to her, long after the month of May is gone.
c) The Blessed Mother reminds us during this month of May to offer her flowers every day. But she is not talking about physical flowers, which, though beautiful and fragrant, still fade and wither. The fragrant flowers she asks us to offer her are spiritual flowers: prayer, trust and love.
d) “Offer me the fragrant flowers of your prayer” (letter e). She asks her priests to gather the people in prayer, and “form with your heavenly Mother a true cenacle of prayer” in preparation for the “Second Pentecost”. Prayer should be frequent and from the heart, and should be done with love and perseverance. Next to the Eucharist, she has invariably implored us to pray the rosary together with her.
e) “Offer me the fragrant flowers of your trust” (letter f). Around us we see so much pain, struggles and frustrations. The enemy makes us believe that our efforts are futile. Such is the way the devil operates: “My Adversary is trying you with the temptation of doubt and of discouragement.” Succumbing to this temptation will surely stop us in our work for the Lord. There will be times when we hear some people expressing doubts as to the authenticity of the messages in the Blue Book: “In these times, Satan is ensnaring very much even this Work of love of mine, seeking to sow division among you” (letter h). These are all subtle ways of attacks by the devil to tempt us with doubts and discouragement. She tells us: “Begin anew to listen to me with the purity of little children…with the simplicity of the poor, and follow me with the abandonment of children.”
f) “Offer me with the fragrant flowers of your love” (letter g). The greatest enemy is selfishness or egoism. This is the most potent weapon of the devil for it directly works against love. So she urges us to follow the commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Concretely, she advises us: “Do not judge; do not criticize; do not condemn. Be kind, gentle and merciful to everyone.”
g) These flowers of prayer, trust and love are what the Blessed Mother desires that we offer her during this month of May “as a most welcome homage”. These will surely make her happy and give her immense consolation in her pains and sufferings during these times.
- The Sunday Readings
a) The theme of this Sunday’s readings is about love: God’s love for us, and our response of love to Him. This love is not easy for it necessarily entails sacrifices on our part, just as God willingly sacrificed His own Son for us. The first reading is from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is quite inspiring how the apostles tried their best to follow the love of Jesus. The missionary journeys of St. Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, are clear illustrations of this. They were ready and willing to forgo personal comfort and undergo indescribable sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel. It is the main content of their exhortation: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Their love for the Lord totally erases all selfish and worldly desires. In the end, they even gave up their lives for the sake of Christ – total dedication and self-sacrifice. They have discovered the real meaning of love.
b) The Responsorial Psalm is the constant motto of the true followers of Christ: “I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.” Even in the midst of afflictions, they realize that “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.”
c) The second reading is from the Book of Revelation. The Apostle St. John described his vision of the new heaven and the new earth. This is what should always inspire every follower of Christ to remain faithful to him at all times, regardless of the many trials and sufferings that we encounter in this world. Everything is passing away. There is a new heaven and a new earth. God will dwell with us – that is the main cause of our real and perfect joy, and this experience is precisely what the angels and saints experience in heaven. St. John described this by saying: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.” That is heaven! And because of this, St. Paul concluded that the sufferings of the present life are nothing compared to the glory that awaits God’s faithful children.
d) The Sunday Gospel is part of the Last Supper event. This was after Judas Iscariot left the Upper Room to accomplish his act of betrayal. Jesus then gives his most important teaching and command to his disciples, the core of the entire Gospel proclamation: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Following this commandment is the sole way by which we will be known as Christians, followers of Christ. Self- sacrificing love is the true mark of a Christian.
- Points for Reflection
a) Love means sacrifice. Love is a very common word. In fact, we use it very loosely and we have the tendency to trivialize it. Seldom do we realize the grandeur and profundity of its meaning and the seriousness of its challenge. In the Gospel, Jesus made a very important qualification to the love he is talking about: “Love one another as I have loved you.” In other words, Jesus is urging us to follow his kind of love, that is, self-sacrificing love, even to the point of offering oneself for the beloved. Blessed Mother Teresa said: “True love causes pain. Jesus, in order to give us the proof of his love, died on the cross. A mother, in order to give birth to her baby, has to suffer. If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making sacrifices.” That is why, in our experience, true love hurts. But the hurt becomes bearable, and even meaningful and necessary because it is borne out of love. That is precisely the difference between a donation and a sacrifice. A donation is something that comes out of the pocket; a sacrifice comes out of the heart. And God is not asking for our donation; rather, He is asking for sacrifice, something painful because it is what we give from our hearts filled with love.
b) Love makes faith real and unifying. Mother Teresa said: “If faith is scarce, it is because there is too much selfishness in the world, too much egoism. Faith, in order to be authentic, has to be generous and giving. Love and faith go hand in hand.” This is the main problem among many Christians. We tend to separate faith from love. We pray and worship God, but our hearts are selfish. We are not generous enough. We are not willing and ready to make sacrifices. If ever we give, we oftentimes give grudgingly and we expect return. Filipinos are well known for our Christian faith; but also equally known for our disunity (regionalism; factionalism). How can a people, united in worship, be so divided? We pray together, but we do not act together. And we enjoy spreading gossips and intrigues, and fomenting dissent. What exacerbates the situation is because we are not only the agents of gossips; we are also its willing clients. So long as there are people willing to listen to and believe in false and malicious stories, these will never end. During this election period in the Philippines, we see how fragmented our country has become, and how vicious are the tactics used by the candidates to attack each other in order to win. Definitely, it is the devil working in and through us. Hence, even though we are a Catholic nation, our worship is fruitless and even abominable in the eyes of God. In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God said: “This people pays me lip service, but their heart is far from me.”
c) True love need not be uncommon and extraordinary. We do not need to be heroic in our acts of love. We do not need to do spectacular acts of apostolate. What is only needed is to do things with sincere love, devoid of any selfish motivation. Mother Teresa has the exact words for this: “God has created us so we do small things with great love.”
d) Love is the only true mark of a Christian. We are all followers of Christ. But not all are true followers. Many are Christians in name, others are by convenience, and many others are seasonal Christians. Going to Church, having devotional novenas and joining religious organizations or ministries, though these are commendable in themselves, are not proofs of being true followers of Christ. There is always the need to purify our motivations and rectify our directions. Everything we do that may be good in themselves lose meaning and value when they are not done out of love. Refer to St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13 – all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in vain when there is no love. In other words, the value of anything we do will only come when we do it out of love. Then and only then can we be considered true followers of Christ.
- Closing Song:
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
- Ano ang naiisip o nararamdaman mo kapag sinasabing ang Pilipinas ay Katolikong bansa ngunit talamak naman ang katiwalian, pagkakawatak-watak at siraan ng kapwa sa ating bansa?
- Ano ang mga kaugaling Pilipino na salungat sa aral at utos ng pag-ibig? Ano namang kaugalian mayroon tayo na katuparan ng utos ng pag-ibig?
- Magbahaginan ng mga konkretong hakbang upang isabuhay ang aral at utos ng pag-ibig.
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