Faithlife Sermons

6 Sunday Easter 2020

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Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter 2020

Bearing Fruit through Divine Love (15:9–17)
OT: Deut 6:4–9; Lev 19:18
NT: Matt 5:43–48; Mark 12:28–34; Phil 2:1–4; 1 John 4:7–12
Catechism: faith, 153–54; charity, 1822–29
Lectionary: Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B); St. Matthias; Common of Pastors; Common of Saints; Christian Initiation apart from Easter Vigil; Baptism of Children; Holy Orders; Marriage; For Peace and Justice; Consecration of Virgins and Religious Profession; For Election of a Pope or Bishop; For Vocations of Priests and Religious; Sacred Heart
[15:9–11] In the Shepherd Discourse, Jesus taught that his relationship with his disciples involved an intimate, mutual knowing, similar to that between the Father and the Son (10:14–15). Here Jesus teaches about the profound love existing among the Father, himself, and his disciples: As the Father loves me, so I also love you. From all eternity, the Father infinitely loves the Son (17:23–24, 26), pouring forth all that he is into the Son and teaching him everything (5:20, 26). Jesus loves his disciples with the same infinite, radically self-giving love: “so I also love you.” He draws his disciples into this unimaginable communion of love between the Father and Son and invites them to remain in this communion of love. As the branches are to “remain” on the vine (15:4–5), the disciples are to remain in communion with Jesus and the Father’s love through loving obedience: Keep my commandments (see 14:15, 21, 23). Such trusting, loving obedience preserves and fosters the disciples’ communion with Jesus because this is Jesus’ own response to the Father as the Son: Just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. If his disciples love and obey him as he loves and obeys the Father, then they too will share his joy, a complete, divine joy that comes from knowing the Father and experiencing his love.
[15:12–13] The heart of Jesus’ moral teaching is one simple commandment: love one another as I love you (see 13:34; Matt 5:43–48; Mark 12:28–34). Jesus loves his disciples with the total self-giving love of God himself. This divine love appears most radiantly in the cross, where the Father gives Jesus for the world’s salvation (3:16) and Jesus lays down his life in an act of perfect love and obedience to the Father (10:17). For, No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Jesus requires that his disciples practice the same kind of radical, self-giving love. God loves first, and the disciples’ love for others arises from their encounter with God’s love. As 1 John 4:11 nicely summarizes it, “If God so loved us, we also must love one another.” The visible sign of the disciples’ love for Jesus, the sign that they are his friends, is their obedience to his command to love one another.
Pope Benedict XVI on God’s Love Eliciting Our Love
[God] encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist.… He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love.… [Love of others] can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend.… Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.
[15:14–15] Jesus elaborates on the love command with a contrast between two kinds of relationships. First, there is the relationship between a master and his slaves, in which commands are given and obeyed simply on the basis of the master’s authority and backed by force. While Jesus is “master and teacher” (13:14), he does not issue the love command in the context of a master-slave relationship but in the context of friendship. Friends do good things for each other because of the friendly affection between them. The disciples are to love one another because this is what Jesus, their friend, has done for them and asks of them. The friendship between Jesus and his disciples has arisen because he has given them everything that he heard from the Father, and, implicitly, they have been willing to receive it.
[15:16–17] The very fact that the disciples have come to know Jesus is a gift of divine love: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. Jesus earlier said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” (6:44). The Father works to bring people to believe in Jesus so that they might receive eternal life through him (6:37–39; 17:6–9). Faith, by which people come to know Jesus, is a free, undeserved gift of divine love, which people must receive and embrace.
The divine choosing of Jesus’ disciples brings a commission: Go and bear fruit that will remain. The fruit that the Father seeks from the vine’s branches is that they love one another. The disciples’ communion with Jesus enables them to produce works of love (15:4–5), and Jesus’ friends are those who, like Jesus, obey the Father’s will in love (15:7, 14). Accordingly, disciples who pray to the Father in Jesus’ name pray in communion with Jesus in his perfect, loving obedience to the Father’s will. They ask the Father to accomplish his plan in the world and their lives and, if they are ready to obey the Father and yield to his will, the Father will give them this request.
Friendship was a very popular topic among philosophers in Greco-Roman antiquity. The famous Roman orator and statesman Cicero wrote a treatise On Friendship, in which he defines friendship as “an accord in all things, human and divine, conjoined with mutual goodwill and affection.” Such popular thinking about friendship appears in the New Testament. Paul calls the Philippians to such friendship: Be “of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:2–3). In both Phil 2 and John 15 there is concern for union and harmony among friends and putting others’ good before one’s own—and that is love.
Reflection and Application (15:9–17)
Jesus’ command, “Love one another as I love you” (15:12), is foundational to the entire Christian life (Catechism 1827). It is so simple and yet so difficult. When we look upon the cross in faith, we see the love of God revealed, a love that is totally self-giving for others’ good. It is the same love that Jesus tells us we must practice. One reason why it is so difficult to love as Jesus does is that we are sinners, bound up in prideful selfishness. To love as God does, we must be constantly dying to our own sinfulness and selfishness and living for God. And we live for God by obeying the Father’s will and loving one another.
We need God’s help to love others in this way. To produce the fruits of love, we must remain on the vine and be pruned by the Father. Put differently, if we are to love others as God does, we need to remain and grow in communion with Jesus, through such things as prayer, the sacraments, and works of penance. Through these spiritual practices, we open ourselves to God’s action in us whereby we increasingly die to our own sinfulness and become conformed to the Father’s will. Thus we will come to joyfully experience the Father’ love and be able to love others as he calls us to do.1
1 Martin, F., & Wright, W. M., IV. (2015). The Gospel of John. (P. S. Williamson & M. Healy, Eds.) (pp. 257–261). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
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