Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter
How many times have we spoke these three little words: “I love you?” The number of times is not the important thing, but rather the spirit that these words are offered to another. We may end a phone call with “Love you.” or an email or text message. We may send a card and sign it, “love you,” And hopefully we really mean it. Sometimes people really do love us but find it difficult to say it for many different and most times valid reasons.
Today’s readings speak about love as well: They speak of the Lord’s love and friendship for us. The first line of the gospel is from Jesus: “I love you.” The final words tell us how to follow him: “Love one another,” something that’s repeated in the Second Reading from 1 John. In just those two readings some form of the word love is used 19 times. What does that tell us? We are loved.
John’s Gospel, rich in symbolic language can be sometimes challenging gives us a clear message: Jesus is our friend, and he loves us. Although we often make following Jesus more complicated, his words to us are simple. The opening sentence of the gospel says, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”
It doesn’t get any clearer. Jesus loves us. We don’t have to be perfect, sinless or even devout. Jesus asks us, “remain in my love.” It’s an open invitation to remain in the awareness that as we go through our daily lives, we are loved deeply by Jesus in everything we do. More than that, Jesus tells us “you are my friends.”
I have shared with you many times before that Jesus is not an abstract figure in the sky or standing back observing us, but rather offering us a real relationship of love and friendship. We want to accept, but may be unsure how to do that. Where do we meet Jesus as we do our other friends? In our goodness to one another. For two weeks, some of us were in isolation. Those who were not, cared for us going to the grocery store, drug store, running errand or phoned offering emotional support. We spend so much time and energy on talking about the need to “evangelize” and yet, when the ‘rubber hits to pavement,’ so to speak, that is what we are doing.
Another way that Jesus enters into loving relationship with us is through Prayer. Perhaps sometimes we can get caught up in the mechanics of prayer, and worry about doing it “correctly.” Our friendship with Jesus is another relationship in our lives with the same movements we have with family members, spouses and friends. We talk and we listen. Prayer is conversation with our friend, Jesus, talking as we might with our friends and family members. I remember a spiritual director telling me to have two chair where ever I pray. Of course I wanted to know why ‘two chairs’. And he said, when you pray, talk to Jesus who is sitting next to you in that second chair… it will change your prayer drastically. And it has-at least for me.
It’s amazing to realize that Jesus selected us to be his friends. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” We have been chosen to share our lives with Jesus as he shares his with us. It’s a connection of joy. The good news, Jesus says, is joy for both of us. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” But more than that, Jesus says that because he chose us, we are sent “to go and bear great fruit that will remain.” Our role as Christians is to live out the teachings of Jesus. “Love one another.”
It’s easy to find tragedy and conflict everywhere especially in these current times. And yet, Jesus offers us a simple solution: “Love one another.” He doesn’t tell us how to vote, to earn money, even to pray. Just love one another, and “remain in me.”
Perhaps it just means for us to relax or lighten up in our own lives and remain in his love. It could be as simple as being kinder to those around us. Stop being crabby and judgmental. Or to put away the idea that my way is the correct way, that my beliefs are true, no matter how enthusiastic I believe them.
We accept the great love of Jesus by following his invitation for us to go and bear fruit that will last. His final words to us echo in our lives: Love one another. My dear friends, it is through this Eucharist we celebrate, that we are strengthened by the mystery of God’s love working in us… so that we may accept the simple invitation to ‘love as Jesus loves.’ Amen.