Podcast Reflections

Sermon for Easter 5 (Year C)

Listen to a sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 15 May 2022 (Year C)

We attach so much significance to people’s last words. They are recorded in books and on television and radio programmes. It is as though we see the very essence of a person’s identity encapsulated in that single moment.

Jesus’ words in today’s gospel were not his last, of course, but they do carry just as much significance –

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

These monumentally important words provide the defining signature of anyone and everyone who has ever professed themselves to be Christian.

Jesus’ basic message of love was not original.

It is repeated throughout the Old Testament – and Jesus himself used those words again and again throughout his earthly ministry.

But … as we hear them today … there is something new!

Today, Jesus is saying love one another – just as I have loved you.

Those six extra words – just as I have loved you – lay down a whole new way of living.

St Augustine once observed that Jesus loved each person he had ever met as if there were no one else in the world to love.

And that is the message contained in those six words – Jesus radically individualized the affection he acted out towards others.

Jesus did not lump people together in groups – he saw them, and valued them, as individuals.

That is the role model we are called to follow when we live out Jesus’ command to love one another – just as he has loved us.

There is a lovely story of a little boy trying to learn the Lord’s Prayer – One night, as he knelt at his bedside, his parents overheard these words –
Our Father, who art in heaven,
how do you know my name?

The intensity of God’s love will always remain a mystery to us, and yet we are made in the image of that love.

And … because we are made in the image of that love, we are called to continually strive to imitate that love as we live out our daily lives.

We are called to imitate God’s love for everyone we encounter in our daily lives – no matter who, or what, they may be.

In his writings, C. S. Lewis, examined the difference between, what he called, need love and gift love.

  • Need love, he wrote, is always born of emptiness.
  • Need love stretches out greedily in its hunger to grasp and to possess.
  • Need love is always circular – reaching out in order that it might transfer value back to itself.

Lewis warns us that when human beings say: I love you, they often really mean: I need you.  I want you.  You have a value that I very much desire to make my own.

And then there is Gift love …

  • Gift love is born of fullness, rather than emptiness.
  • The goal of Gift love is to enrich and to enhance that which is loved, rather than to extract value from it.
  • Gift love moves out to bless and to increase, rather than to acquire and to diminish.
  • Gift love is more like a bountiful well that continues to overflow, and nothing like the vacuum of Need love.

This Gift love is the foundation stone upon which we should be building our understanding of Jesus’ call to love one another.

We – with the help of God’s unfailing grace – can grow into the wonder of loving each other as if there were none other in all the world to love – we can also grow into the wonder of loving all as we love each.

The little boy said –
Our Father, who art in heaven,
how do you know my name?

Jesus said –
Love one another – just as I have loved you.

What more is there to say?