|The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Psalms 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
John 13:31-33, 34-35
Today, in this part of the world, is a celebration in honor and gratitude for all mothers. I am a bit caught between a rock and a soft place. The readings for today’s liturgy do not easily render themselves to a recognition or celebration of motherhood. Yet, I, as most celebrants today, would love to write a reflection about my own mother and that is the soft place. I do not wish to stretch or manipulate the Scriptures to fit such a wonderful memorial and so I limit my reflection about my mother to one only. The rest I reserve to my own prayer this day.
Today is one of those days you might be glad you are not the reader for the First Reading. One of the big Catholic questions one hears in the sacristy is “Are there any big words?” Paul and Barnabas have been moving around and the list of town’s sounds like something one might hear in a bus station. The Acts of the Apostles relates the growth of the early Church through confrontations and hardships. They believe what they have heard and seen and they keep moving on to spread the faith.
Perhaps an image might help here. A flashlight beam shines upon the surface of a globe resting in a dark room. That light illumines only that small circle of the surface. The light of Christ, the Light that is Christ, shined into the dark in one place at one time of history.
The Holy Spirit which Jesus promised to His early companions and which came upon them in time moved the Light from Jerusalem to the “gentiles.” The Light and the Spirit are for the entire world and for all times. Paul and Barnabas carry that Light and the Spirit urges them to keep on moving even to the ends of the known world.
Shakespeare wrote something which Jesus might have said, “Love is not love when it alters, when it alterations finds.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus has just finished washing the feet of the disciples and is beginning His last great teaching. In the five chapters of John’s Gospel called, “The Last Discourse,” Jesus reviews, views and then previews His relationships with His dearest friends. The very first thing He emphasizes is His desire that they love one another. He will return to this as a commandment later in His talk with them. What we hear today is how Jesus’ love for His Father and His Father’s love for Him are the glorification of both.
Jesus has loved through all the alterations, which he has encountered in living His mission as Messiah. He will encounter even more changes in these chosen few, but His love will not change. Eventually His love will change them and alter their lives as we hear in the lives of Paul and Barnabas.
Perhaps here we might reflect how Jesus’ love is like that of a mother’s love. I remember one tremendous revelation of my mother’s unalterable love for all her six children. One, my younger brother, came home one afternoon from the Lake Michigan beach and she noticed one small circle-burn in the towel. My older sister and I thought he was really going to catch it for smoking cigarettes. When she asked him what caused the burn, he told her that it was caused by his having taken off his glasses to go swimming and the sun burned right through one lens which was just at the proper angle for it to happen.
She believed him. We believed more than ever that my mother loved when “alterations finds.”
Jesus is inviting all of us to love beyond circle-burned towels and
heart-breaking rejections. As we hear in the First Reading, “It is
necessary for us to undergo hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
The hardship of loving as we are loved by God goes against our strong sense
of justice and retribution. He has washed our feet, our spirits and
urges us to enter the kingdom by spreading the Light into the darkness
of our divided world, families and cultures. We are now, how that
Light of Love is to be spread through the same Spirit which moved Paul,
Barnabas and the members of the early Church to move out and beyond.
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