Homily for May 13, VI Sunday of Easter
I’m not sure who came up this idea first, but someone on the internet has developed an interesting way of analyzing and presenting the frequency that words occur in a document or on a website. What they do is discard the words that are merely functional – like articles and prepositions – then count how many times each of the remaining words occur. Then, each unique word is arranged such that its size and prominence represents the frequency of the word in the text. It ends up looking a bit like a work of modern art, with words all over the page in different sizes.
If you run today’s readings through this kind of program – which I did – two words stand out much more than the rest: “God”, and even bigger, “love”. That is no coincidence; those two words really capture the essence of today’s readings. A key message of todays readings is that God is the source and example of love, Who invites us to respond by loving Him and loving others as He has loved us.
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us that God loved us before we even knew or loved Him. God called us into existence, chose us, and gave us the gift of faith. We see an example of this in the first reading; Gentiles, men and women who did not really know much about the true God yet, were told by an angel to send for Peter to hear what He had to preach. They obeyed, and immediately upon hearing Peter speak, they received the gift of faith and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was totally God’s initiative. So it is with all of us. As St. John says in the second reading today, Christ’s coming and His death on the Cross for our sins was God’s love reaching out to us, in a way we would never have dared to request. That divine initiative continues today; it is the Holy Spirit that moves, inspires, and enables parents to bring up their children in the faith. It is also God who reaches out to people who do not believe in Him and guides them on the path to conversion.
Jesus goes on to say that His commandment is that we love one another as He has loved us. That means reaching out to love people we don’t even know, and loving people who do not love us. But it’s important to note what kind of love we are talking about. It’s not the sentiment or emotion of love; that is often a part of it, but it is not necessary. God loves us by sacrificing Himself for us and by seeking what is truly best for us. It is a love of actions and initiatives, not of feelings and words alone.
This is the kind of love that Jesus requires of us when He says, “love one another as I have loved you.” We Christians are called to be images of God’s love, actively taking the initiative to help others, to serve them, and to seek what is best for them – especially those most in need.
One of the best images of this is motherly love. A mother loves her child before she ever sees it, and often she sacrifices herself for her child night and day. There can be times when she doesn’t feel like getting up to take care of her sick child at 3AM, but she does it because she loves. I’m sure all the mothers here could give us countless examples of sacrifices they made – and continue to make – for their children. Some women who don’t have their own children, show their maternal love by caring for other people in need. Just think of all the women who have served the Church faithfully in the religious life, and other women who have dedicated their lives to service in other ways. There are examples in every community.
Let us thank them all as we celebrate Mother’s day, and let us thank God today for His love, and for the the gift of the women who have been mothers to us, both literally and figuratively. May we learn, from love we have received, how to love others in turn. Then we too will bear much fruit, remain in God’s love, and have the fullness of joy that God wants for us.