The Gospels for several weeks now have been very comforting. Every year we spend a very long Lent examining ourselves and trying to enter into that season of penance, and every year that ends with the Easter joy of knowing that beyond our small effort and despite our failures, Christ has restored our life with the Father. The Sundays after that focused on the mercy we have received, as we were reminded of the resurrected Christ appearing to his apostles and giving them his peace. Last Sunday especially, the Gospel turned not just to the apostles but to us and told us that we are his flock, that the Good Shepherd knows us and protects us.
But today the Gospel takes us one step further and asks us to reflect on how knowing Christ and professing his resurrection has changed the way we live our lives. This is not the penitential examination of Lent where we reflect on our sins, this is a joyous examination of Easter where we name the good people we have become through Christ and because of Christ.
Jesus tells us to remain in him: “whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” What does it mean to remain in him? What does it mean to be pruned by the word that he spoke? What does it mean to bear fruit? Again, this is a self-reflection done with joy because we know that the love of Christ has changed us and we want to sit and really see and know that love.
The second reading gave us an answer. “His commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them.” So now we have a reference point, now we know what we are looking for in ourselves that reflects the work of salvation and the grace of God active in our lives. In ourselves we should find a love for one another that follows his commandments. He commanded us to love one another as we would love ourselves. He commanded us to make amends before we approach the altar with our gifts, to turn the other cheek and not retaliate, to feed others ourselves from what we have, to forgive others like he did from the Cross, and like that Cross to lay down our lives for a friend. In other words, if you want to measure the strength of your relationship with Christ and your understanding of what he has given to you in his resurrection, take a look at how you love others.
Our love of Christ and all that he has done for us, is defined by our response of loving others. And I think our world right now is in desperate need of truly Christian people whose lives are defined by loving others. There are many good things in the secular world around us like democratic forms of government or, like Pope Francis’s intention for last month, the recognition of fundamental rights. But without being guided by true Christian love for others, there is always the danger that things like selfishness and greed and xenophobia will begin to corrupt the world.
But that’s beside the point. The point of the homily is that for you and me, we should look at our lives and joyfully see how being loved by Christ has amplified our love for others. Next Sunday the Gospel will return to this, so in our prayer this week may we reflect with Christ and talk with him about this love, and know that his spirit guides us.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.