Sermon for 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C
Based on Jn. 13:31-35
The words of Jesus spoken in our gospel today are so simple and yet so profound. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” These words are so simple because even the smallest of children can understand them. Yet, they are so profound because all of us have failed miserably to put them into practice.
The tragic fact is that we have not loved one another as Jesus has loved, and continues to love us. We have failed to let all people know that we are Christ’s disciples. Too often we are selfish when we need to be unselfish. To often we are impatient with others when we need to be patient. Too often we judge others and gossip about others instead of seeing the good and trying to understand them. Too often we are harsh, critical, unloving, rejecting others, and unforgiving.
Not only have we failed miserably to love one another in this congregation; but we have also failed miserably to love other Christian people from other churches. There are still divisions, misunderstandings, and in some cases, even hatred toward other Christians. This is tragic, and certainly not in keeping with the very essence of the Gospel and the true Spirit of Jesus himself. Consequently, the churches are unable to provide the love of Christ to others in need because of their divisions.
Our Lord Jesus Christ loved the world and the people in it so much that he unconditionally and freely gave up his life to save us all. His love is a free gift unconditionally given. How free and unconditional is our love for one another? How do we love one another as he loved us? How do all people know that we are his disciples because of our love for one another?
Someone tells the following story: One of the chief problems faced by the British during their occupation of India during Queen Victoria’s days were the fierce tribespeople of the Garo Hills. They were cruel, dangerous and headhunters, and the British decided that for their own safety they should send a strong military force into the hills and wipe out these people, destroying their villages and making the area uninhabitable. When a group of missionaries learned of the plan, they pleaded with the authorities, “Let us try to solve the problem.” Their plea was heard, and courageous missionaries fanned out into the area. Today the hills are dotted with churches, schools and hospitals—a safe place for anyone. The message of Christian love accomplished peacefully what guns and bloodshed could never have assured. 1
Are there also not situations here and around the world today where we could accomplish a lot more with Christian love than we could ever accomplish with aggression, bloodshed and war? What if the peaceful approach to solving conflicts gained more momentum among Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland or Israelis and Palestinians in Israel? Would these nations and peoples not be farther ahead than they are now, still deadlocked in their conflicts?
Someone else tells another story: Mary Craig was a mother of a mentally challenged son. When another son was born to her she was dismayed to discover that he too was mentally challenged. Many of her friends felt deeply for her. One of them even cried two whole days for her; she wanted to write Mary but couldn’t bring herself to do it. Mary was disappointed that her friend had apparently not cared enough to write, and when they next met she said so, somewhat bluntly. Mary had learned a lesson too—that silence from a friend does not always mean indifference; while, at the same time, her friend had realized that people with special concern need to know that others care. 2
Our love, sympathy and our prayers can mean so much to others at a crisis point in life. We need to be caring, supporting, encouraging one another if our Christian love is going to reach out to others and bear witness to Jesus Christ.
Our Christian love is the clearest mark, the most concrete demonstration that the world will see Jesus Christ. Love for one anther is the single, most important thing that is supposedly holds a congregation and the whole Christian Church together. This love must reach all people everywhere. Jesus has sent us fragile human, earthly vessels to share his love with the world.
It is not a love that has to be rationed or given to only a preferred group because it cannot be exhausted. It is plentiful; there is more than enough for everyone. It is up to us to share this love with the world because we are the Lord’s hands, feet, mouth of Jesus in the world. We are the body of Christ. May the Church and the world continue to grow in and benefit from the influence of Christ’s love alive in us and through us.