Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

1st Reading: Acts: 14: 21-27

Responsorial Psalm: 145: 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

2nd Reading: Revelation: 21: 1-5a

Gospel: John 13: 31-33a, 34-35

I love it when the Good News sounds like good news.  It’s easier to wrap my brain around the readings when they are encouraging and uplifting.  I don’t think I’m alone when I admit that I attend Mass to be encouraged, to be fed, to be motivated to stick with this moral life and endure the suffering for a higher purpose.  (Speaking for myself, the Sabbath motivation rarely lasts for more than a few days which necessitates attendance on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.)  Some of my favorite words at mass are “Lift up your hearts.”   The first two readings offer this necessary encouragement.

Just for clarification, today's gospel takes us back to the Last Supper, just before Jesus' crucifixion.  Judas has just left, which indicates that the wheel is in motion.  There is no turning back from this point.  I would imagine the disciples are afraid and a little confused.  Jesus takes the time to say farewell and to reassure them that it's all going to work out in the end.  This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from John Lennon - "Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end."

It’s difficult to understand the concept of honor to those hearing Jesus’ message.  Honor and shame are not core values in our American culture like they were to these Mediterranean people.  For the disciples, honor was their public claim to worth.  If you did not have honor, you had nothing.  For this reason, Jesus takes the time to explain how glory will come from the humiliation of the crucifixion.  He knows of His coming death and has accepted it as the will of His father, giving Jesus honor as an obedient son.  God receives honor as the father of an obedient son but also in the act of raising that son from the dead.  Glorification does not cancel suffering.  It reveals the love and meaning of that suffering.

Jesus tells the disciples how they must treat each other; with love.  This incident of "love one another" is directed precisely at the people in the room and the Christian community as a whole.  It would seem in direct contrast to Jesus’ words at the Sermon on the Mount when He instructs all to love their enemies.  Jesus isn’t talking about the disciple’s enemies in today’s gospel.  He’s telling them to love each other.  We must first learn to love those who are like us before we can love those who are different.  It is by this act of loving each other that the outsiders will recognize them as a Christian community.  Just as a toddler must learn to love and interact respectfully with those who live in his home before he can go out into society and interact with others (at least successfully).

John’s gospel ups the ante on love.  John identifies God as the personification of love and obedience is the foundation of that love.  Jesus loves you as you are, not as you should be, and He calls each and every one of us to that same, unconditional love.  We glorify Him by dying to self and loving those He loves. 

Reflection Questions:

1.    How do you perceive God as loving you? How does God express it?

2.    How do you express your love for God? To what degree is that enough for you?

3.    Jesus tells his disciples that their love for others should be like his. What does that mean in practice?

4.    How attainable is this command? What has enabled your love in life to grow?

5.    Why should love be the ultimate commandment, the ultimate value in Christian life?  Why not, rather, wisdom or trust or fidelity?

Click here to view original handout from the RCIA Catechumenate session.