5th Sunday of Easter ~ 15 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 14:21-27; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: Revelation: 21: 1-5a; Gospel: John 13: 31-35
Within these fifty holy, joyful, and glorious days of Easter we come to this Lord’s Day where our Gospel shares the words Jesus, spoke very shortly before His passion. In the Upper Room where He has shared the Passover transformed into the Eucharistic Feast, He also proclaims His final message just before leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane. It is around this altar where the faithful have gathered ever since Jesus distills the call, the command of the Gospel into eight words: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”
God, who is infinite, eternal, omniscient, and omnipresent has inspired millions upon millions of words and endless discussion and debate. Humanity has diligently sought to understand and explain God and the commands and practices of worship worthy of the All-Holy One. This quest has often, and very tragically resulted in great divisions and strife. Judgment and hatred have prevailed in hearts where God’s peace, love, and holy beauty are designed to dwell. This darkness and oppression of life and holiness are especially evident in our own day. Wars, destruction of our shared home in greed, and bondage of lust and selfishness seem ever triumphant. But now as on God’s holy cross, the holy conquest of sin and darkness will occur. Many are the bitter sermons of hate and fear gushing forth from the false gospels of greed, self, choice, or sensual pleasures. The stormy tides of pride and fear that pushed Jesus to Calvery intimidate many even today. It is easy to see Christians developing a bunker mentality where fear of the perceived enemy brings some to preach judgment and a running deep into trenches of safe and ancient practices and words.
But …Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you”! Well yes, Jesus did say that and it means that in His love we must condemn all that is contrary to His will. We must “hate the sin but love the sinner!” And those words were spoken only to His disciples… Jesus surely did not mean …everyone !?!? Did He?
If we take the words of Christ faithfully and seriously we need to take them in the context they are shared. Jesus spoke of this new command in many ways, places, and examples. Specifically, in the context of John’s Gospel, it is spoken moments before Christ goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He will be betrayed by Judas Iscariot whose feet he washed and with whom His Eucharist was shared. Love one another as I have loved you. In a matter of hours, He will stand beaten before Pilate, He will carry His cross, and on the cross, before He dies He will pray: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” “Love one another as I have loved you!“
If we are serious about being Christians, being an Easter people, we must learn we are not about a single cause or a political or social label. We are not about our own perceptions of God, the commandments. We humbly are thankful for the grace of Truth and Tradition the Holy Spirit has shared in God’s Church. But we also humbly realize we do not own or control the Truth who is Jesus Christ. Instead, we learn we are on a resurrection journey to grow in the fullness of God, who is Truth.
A profound example of this journey, this voyage into the promises and fullness of God is the Irish St. Brendan whose Feast Day is 16 May.
Brendan is one of perhaps the three best-known of the Irish saints, St. Patrick and St. Brigid being the other two. His life, buried in antiquity and shrouded in myth and legend nonetheless shares powerful lessons and hope for anyone seeking to know and follow Christ. Brendon was a cleric who is best known for his seven-year voyage in search of the Land of Promise. As is often the case in the study of the saints much of their story is shared in the stories and legends that cloak them. Yet regardless of whether one looks to factual, mythical, or deeper spiritual truth the life of St. Brendan is a witness for God of loving and seeking God. Brendan teaches us how those eight words of Jesus will launch us on voyages of faith, courage and …love.
We may not voyage as St. Brendan did. Our paths in this life are probably much less dramatic. Yet as it was for the early disciples, as it was for St. Brendan, so it is for us today. Jesus commands us to love as He loves us. He also says this will be the witness that we are true disciples of Our Lord and God, by the love we have for each other.
St. Brendan lived this command faithfully and with a passion that carried him immense distances for God. This early Celtic saint lived the faith and values of his church and his relationship with God in practical and deeply spiritual love. This holy love lived the ancient Celtic faith of the worth and dignity of all. Brendan, before his journeys would seek the wisdom and counsel of other believers, women and men, bishops, priests and lay. His faith in God embraced and infused the relationships he had with others so that he trusted and held in deep respect their perceptions and wisdom. It was not expected to always agree but always to Listen and Learn. The conversion of Ireland, Scotland, and England were unique in that although the lands were deeply pagan the path of witness and conversion was shared with respect of the other soul and their beliefs. This resulted in conversions most often peaceful. Evil was recognized for what it was. But there was an ability to love another however much they may differ or disagree. (With the current intense rancor about abortion it may be well to learn from the example of the early Celtic Christians that the practices and popular beliefs of others do not diminish their worth or our call… to love as Jesus did).
The love St. Brendan had for others was rooted in an even deeper love for God. It was his quest to see, to follow where God would lead with those who would, in holy love desire to share that journey. Brendan had a deep conviction that God would lead him to that holy island, The Land of Promise. The literal fulfillment or meaning of this journey is known only To God, Brendan, and those with whom he sailed. Just as our travels for God are known best by God. But that these quests were fueled by Brendan’s love for God and his fellow seekers cannot be denied. This bark of love is what carried them through seas of calm and chaotic storms. They like us sail into a future shrouded in the uncertainty of what and where life will lead. But they sailed together in acts of deep and resilient courage. We too are called to journey in obedience to those eight words, in Biblical power and promise, that will conquer our fears as we launch forth in the Holy Spirit, in the power of His love. This holy season of Easter let us each, let us together seek to press on in courageous obedience to those eight words Jesus shared: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
PRAYER OF ST. BRENDAN
“Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.”