Cycle A 6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 Jn. 4:7-10; Jn. 15:9-17

My dear brothers and Sister, today’s Gospel passage draws our attention to one of the most profound and unique teachings of Jesus: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend" (John 15:12-13). These words encapsulate the essence of Christian love, a love that goes beyond mere sentimentality, transcending boundaries and circumstances.

In the Old Testament the bond between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17) exemplifies selfless love and loyalty. Despite facing immense adversity, including the loss of their husbands and the uncertainty of the future, Ruth chooses to remain by Naomi's side. Her declaration, "Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16), reflects a deep and

abiding commitment that transcends mere familial ties. Ruth's devotion to Naomi goes beyond obligation; it is a testament to the profound love and loyalty that can exist between two individuals, rooted in mutual respect, care, and a shared sense of purpose. Through Ruth's actions, we witness the transformative power of sacrificial love, which not only sustains but also enriches the lives of both the giver and the receiver.

In contemplating the commandment to love one another as Jesus loved us, we are confronted with the very heart of the Christian faith. Jesus's love was not confined to words or sentiments; it was a love manifested in action, in selflessness, and in sacrifice. As the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Such is the nature of the love that Jesus commands us to emulate—a love that is unconditional, sacrificial, and transformative.

In the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Orpheus, a gifted musician, descends into the depths of the underworld to retrieve his beloved wife, Eurydice, after she tragically dies from a snake bite. Overcome with grief, Orpheus's love for Eurydice compels him to confront Hades, the god of the underworld, and plead for her return. As Orpheus embarks on his perilous journey to the underworld, he encounters a series of daunting challenges and dangers. The path leading to the realm of Hades is fraught with treacherous obstacles, both natural and supernatural. As he descends deeper into the abyss, he navigates through dark and winding passages, where the air is thick with the whispers of lost souls and the eerie echoes of their lamentations. Along the way, Orpheus encounters menacing creatures guarding the gates of the underworld, such as the multi-headed dog Cerberus, whose ferocious growls and bared fangs threaten to devour any intruders. Despite these formidable adversaries and the oppressive atmosphere of death that surrounds him, Orpheus presses on with unwavering determination, fueled by his boundless love for Eurydice and his resolve to defy the very forces of fate and mortality. This myth underscores the transformative power and depth of sacrificial love, mirroring the divine love exemplified by Jesus. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend.”

To understand the depth of Christ's love, we need look no further than the cross. In his selfless act of laying down his life for the salvation of humanity, Jesus demonstrated the ultimate expression of love. As the apostle John eloquently states in 1 John 3:16, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." Jesus's sacrifice was not merely an act of obedience to the Father's will; it was a profound revelation of God's love for humanity—a love so deep and boundless that it willingly bore the weight of sin and suffering for our sake. As followers of Christ, we are called to embody this same sacrificial love in our relationships with one another, laying down our lives in service to others.

In our increasingly fractured and polarized world, the commandment to love one another takes on a heightened significance. We can faithfully practice this commandment in the midst of our daily lives if we allow Jesus to permeate every aspect of our being.

Firstly, True love is not merely a sentiment; it is expressed through tangible acts of kindness, compassion, and service. As the apostle James exhorts us in James 2:15-16, "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" Let us therefore be proactive in seeking out opportunities to extend a helping hand to those in need, demonstrating the love of Christ through our actions.

There are numerous Individuals who have understood this message of Jesus and followed it literally.  One poignant example of self-sacrifice for the sake of others is the story of Arland D. Williams Jr., a passenger aboard Air Florida Flight 90, which crashed into the frozen Potomac River in Washington, D.C., in January 1982. Following the crash, Williams found himself among the survivors struggling in the icy waters. Despite the freezing temperatures and the desperate fight for survival, Williams repeatedly passed the lifeline to other passengers, helping them to safety before ultimately succumbing to hypothermia and drowning. His selfless actions saved the lives of at least five individuals, demonstrating an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of others in their time of need. Williams's heroism serves as a powerful reminder of the capacity for ordinary individuals to perform acts of extraordinary courage and compassion, even in the face of imminent danger and personal sacrifice.

Secondly, Forgiveness lies at the heart of Christian love, for it is through forgiveness that we emulate the boundless mercy of our Savior. As Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Let us therefore cultivate a spirit of forgiveness in our hearts, releasing the burden of resentment and bitterness and embracing the liberating power of reconciliation.

Louis Zamperini was an American Olympic athlete and World War II bombardier who survived being shot down over the Pacific Ocean and endured more than two years of brutal captivity in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps   Zamperini faced starvation, torture, and constant danger. After his release he returned to Japan as a missionary, seeking to reconcile with his former captors. He reminds us that even in the darkest of times, forgiveness has the power to transcend pain and suffering, offering hope and redemption to both the forgiven and the forgiver.

Lastly, it should be Love in Unity.  In a world marked by division and discord, the call to love one another as Jesus loved us takes on a profound significance. As the apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:14, "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Let us therefore strive to foster unity within our communities, transcending barriers of race, ethnicity, and ideology, and embracing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters, the commandment to love one another as Christ loved us is not a mere suggestion; it is the very foundation upon which our faith rests. As we meditate upon the depth of Christ's love for us and the example he set for us through his sacrifice on the cross, let us be inspired to emulate that same love in our relationships with one another.