Love one another as I have loved you.
Sixth Sunday of Easter B

Frank Enderle
Reproduced with Permission

On this Sixth Sunday of the Easter Season, with Ascension Thursday just a few days away, the Readings talk to us of love. Jesus, with the hour in which He was to leave this world and return to the Father rapidly approaching, said to His disciples, “This is my commandment: that you love each other as I have loved you.” There are people who have problems coming to grips with the kind of love of which the Lord speaks. We know that in the world there are various kinds of love. But the love that Christ talks about is unique and special, and, for many, impossible to understand. That is understandable. How can people without faith, people who do not follow Jesus, understand that someone would give His life up for others as He did? What’s more, He did not give it up for a family member, for friends or for His followers. He also gave it for His enemies, for those who He knew would offend Him, and even for those who would nail Him to the Cross. Christ loves us deeply. His love, unlike ours, is loyal and unselfish.

In the Gospel Reading, the Lord says, “If you keep my commandments, you remain in my love.” He reminds us that even though He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, He kept the commandments of His Father and, because of this; He remained in His Father’s love. He warns us that if we want to be His friends we have to do as He did and He shows us something that many people do not see or comprehend. We know that there are people who say, “I pray hard. I go to Church. I pray to God for many things but I never receive an answer.” To these people I would say that maybe they should examine their own lives and the way that they pray. Maybe they are not praying to God correctly. Maybe they turn their backs on God and don’t obey His commandments. How can they expect God to help them and give them a positive response to their prayers when they act that way? Clearly Jesus tells us in the Gospel Reading that everything that we ask of the Father in His name will be given to us, if it is something that is good for us, of course. But we can’t show God that we don’t really care for Him, that we don’t really need to obey Him, and expect Him to turn around and give us everything that we ask for.

If we read Sacred Scripture, we will see how the Lord acted during the years of His public life. His every action showed His understanding, tolerance, and love. He even forgot about His own welfare in order to help others out. Sometimes He was terribly tired. He preached the word, cured the sick, as he listened to everyone and attended to their needs. He gave of Himself totally. That same generous attitude is what He asks of us. He wants us to love Him first of all and one another. He not only wants us to show our love for our friends or our family, He asks us to love one everyone, even those people who harm us. He asks us to wish them no harm and to pray for them.

In our society the word “love’ is heard everywhere. It is repeated ad nauseum. And, above all, we hear a lot about love of neighbor. “Our neighbors have to be helped” is said repeatedly. Many times I ask myself, “If there is so much love and so much yearning to help others in this world, why do we feel so little love and understanding in the people that we come across every day, in those who are nearest to us and with whom we live?” What happens is that the concept of helping our neighbor has been distorted. We need to understand that love of neighbor does not have to be done on a grand scale, nor do we have to travel great distances to do it. Truly charitable works can been found just around the corner. When we see someone we know, a family member, classmate or coworker, in need, we should not pass up the opportunity to show our Christian love for them. And another thing. If we see someone in need of help, even if we are in a hurry, even if we are tired, we Christians listen to him or her and help in any way we can. Sometimes just a willingness to listen and a shoulder to cry on is all that people ask for. We have an obligation to be kind, helpful, and generous, with our family, at work and in our parish.

My sisters and brothers, love of neighbor means attending to the needs of others in any way we can, welcoming others into our community without regard for color, race, or social position - without trying to show that we think we are superior to them and without discriminating against them. When we help a neighbor, it should be done charitably, as we would want someone to help us if we found ourselves in the same circumstances. We Christians should show that we want to be more like Christ by doing good, defending the weak, and aiding those closest to us.