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  • Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

6th Sunday of Easter

“No one has greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”

Entrance Antiphon: Is 48:20 – “Proclaim a joyful sound and let it be heard; proclaim to the ends of the earth: The Lord has freed His people, alleluia.”

First Reading: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 – “The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles also.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 – “The Lord has revealed to the nations His saving power.”

Second Reading: 1 Jn 4:7-10 – “God is love.”

Alleluia: Jn 14:23 – “Alleluia, alleluia. Whoever loves Me will keep My word, says the Lord, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Jn 15:9-17 – “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 14:15-16 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments, says the Lord, and I will ask the Father and He will send you another Paraclete, to abide with you for ever, alleluia.”


First, let me say, “Happy Mother’s Day!” In the “Peanuts” comic strip, Linus is the classic philosopher – often spouting great wisdom about the human condition. However, even he gets frustrated now and again with others, especially with his sister, Lucy. One of his most memorable lines, that I’ve seen a number of times in different Peanuts comic strips over the years, is usually expressed by Linus in great frustration. Usually it’s his sister who has once again jumped up and down on that last nerve. And in the last box of the comic, as a last resort he screams: “I love mankind; it’s people that I can’t stand.” I don’t know about all of you, but there are times I can totally understand and relate to poor Linus’ frustration.


I think it’s easy to love people in the abstract. In that way, they can never disappoint or mess up our plans. They also never seriously challenge our comfort zone. In some ways, by loving people generically, we are simply loving ourselves. Family members, neighbors and co-workers are all too real for us with their gifts and their blind spots. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that they … that we … need to love one another ... and only by doing that can we remain in His love and witness to Jesus’ Good News. I also think that talking about some of the qualities of love is extremely relevant as we celebrate Mother’s Day. Isn’t love the reason we celebrate our Moms today in the first place.


Love enabled Peter to face a very serious challenge. In today’s First Reading, Peter knows that he will have a lot of explaining to do for his decision to baptize Cornelius, a Gentile centurion. In Peter’s time, Jews and Gentiles scarcely mixed socially and had only minimal contact otherwise. Peter not only baptized Cornelius but said, in effect, that Gentiles did not have to follow Jewish dietary laws. Why is this such a big deal? Well, most Christians at this time in the Church came from a Jewish background, and because of that they gladly kept observing the Jewish dietary laws. So when you think about it in those terms, Peter sounds pretty heroic in today’s First Reading. However, that may or may not be the actual case. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, tells us that Peter later wavered on whether Gentile Christians had to observe Jewish dietary laws. Saint Paul “withstood him to the face,” according to one translation. Saint Paul stood up to Saint Peter and challenged the practice. In fact, we know that Saint Paul’s position on this topic has prevailed … because as Catholics and as Christians we don’t observe all of those Jewish dietary laws anymore.


Love enabled Jesus to lay down His life for us all. Love doesn’t change physical facts ... The whips of Pilate’s soldiers were just as cruel for Jesus as they were for anyone else ... and according to tradition, Jesus fell three times under those whips as He carried His cross to Calvary.


Love doesn’t erase conflicting feelings ... It didn’t take the sting out of being betrayed by His best friend Peter three times or by Judas. Love didn’t automatically make it easy for Jesus to be publicly ridiculed while He was on the cross.


Love allowed Jesus to exercise His freedom ... not to be trapped in bitterness and resentment over the unjust treatment that He received ... it allowed Jesus to minister up to the very end, promising eternal life to one of the criminals crucified with Him, asking the Father to forgive those who did that to Him, and to assure His disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, would lead them in the days ahead.


The Gospel of Saint John is very clear that Jesus’ life was not snatched away from Him ... He laid it down freely out of love. “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”


The love that God has showered on us and the love that we experience from other believers enable us to take the next step on our journey of faith. This side of heaven, there is always a next step. At one point, it meant that Peter faced down those who said that he should never have baptized Cornelius ... or at least should have demanded that Cornelius follow the Jewish dietary laws. Love would later mean that Peter accepted being a martyr. As Jesus had foretold, the day would come when someone else would lead Peter where he would prefer not to go. Is God calling us as a community of faith to some risk on our faith journey? For example, how many of you are willing to discuss abortion or immigration reform as adult followers of Jesus ... and in your conversation to move beyond the slogans and the stereotypes and the hype? How many of you are willing to challenge some injustice that most people say cannot be corrected? Is God calling you to take a step that you know will bring you grief in the short run? Must you lie to yourself about what you know to be true in order to keep peace in your families, in your neighborhoods, or even in this parish?


In the Passion timeline, today’s Gospel follows Jesus’ decision to wash His apostles’ feet at the Last Supper. Jesus’ love for all humans did not excuse Him from loving the apostles even though, at this point, they misunderstood most of what Jesus had said and done.


The Gospel command to “love one another” demands a different kind of love than is projected by the media and society in general. Think about it. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Maybe I'm beginning to sound like a broken record week after week, but we are presented with this idea ... this theme week after week ... and isn't that what our celebration of Easter is all about? Our love for one another is to emulate God’s love ... a love that is total, demanding, self-emptying, and self-giving. On this Mother’s Day weekend, it’s good to remember that it’s much like the love a mother possesses for her children and the love children should possess for their Moms ... their parents ... as well. At every Mass we encounter God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit ... and we receive help to abide in their love, which always involves serving others. It’s actually a pretty simple concept to understand. When we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything that He Himself hasn’t done first. It should be no different when we walk outside those doors. Happy Mother's Day!

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