Homily for May 14, Saturday of the III week of Easter
Today’s Gospel reading is one of the most beautiful and reassuring, one of the most profound, and one of the most challenging.
It is one of the most beautiful and reassuring because in it Jesus tells us how much He loves us. He affirms that we are His friends if we keep His commandments, and says that “no one has greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. He says this at the Last Supper, right after He gives us Himself in the Eucharist and right before He lays down His life for us on the cross. In short, He loves us with the greatest possible love.
This is one of the most profound Gospel passages, because Jesus says that He loves us as the Father loves Him. The love that the Lord shows us by dying for us is a participation in, or an image of, the love that the God the Father has for God the Son. This brings us into the mystery of God Himself, into the nature and internal dynamics of the Blessed Trinity. In some way, Jesus is telling us that the Father gives His whole being in an act of love for the Son (although the Father, as God, cannot die for the Son as Jesus died for us). Theologians have meditated and reflected and written volumes about this, but although we can form some ideas about it, the mystery of the Trinity is beyond our comprehension.
This reading is also one of the most challenging – not just because of its theological depth, but also because of what Jesus commands us to do: to love one another as He loves us. We just saw that Jesus loves us with a love so intense and consuming that He dies for us and gives Himself to us completely in the Eucharist, in an act of self-giving similar to the one by which God the Father eternally loves God the Son. He tells us to love each other that way. Think about that for a second… it’s almost scary. We cannot give as much as God the Father or God the Son, because we are mere creatures and have infinitely less to give. But God doesn’t expect us to give what we don’t have. He just expects us to give our all.
Of course, we need God’s grace in order to love others to that extreme, and we can look to the saints for examples to follow. Today we celebrate the feast of St Matthias, the man chosen to take the place of Judas as an Apostle. We know very little about him, but it seems that he, like almost all the other Apostles, gave his life for the faith as a martyr. We are probably not called to that kind of sacrifice, but there are often many little ways throughout the day that we can “lay down our life” for others. Taking the time to listen to someone when we’d rather be doing something else, smiling at someone even when we feel grumpy or bothered, being patient with others when they are getting on our nerves, giving others the first choice of what to watch on TV or the right-of-way on the road… May God help us today to love others more like He loves us, and to do it with purity of heart, out of sincere love, so we can truly be His friends.