7th Sunday Easter
20 May 2012
For the last 6 weeks we have been celebrating Easter and next week the feast of Pentecost brings the Easter Season to a close.
The readings for this 7th Sunday of Easter are beautiful and not surprisingly, as complex and profound as are the events of the Easter Triduum. In the two readings from John he does nothing less than explain the meaning of life and the means to happiness in this life.
In a nutshell, St John says that we will find meaning and happiness in life, through and in our relationships; our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
We are created in love by God to be in a loving relationship with God and we find God and experience God through our loving relationships with others.
He writes “No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another, God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.” Only if we love the visible neighbour can we love the invisible God; a profession of love for God without love of neighbour is a disastrous lie.
Pope Benedict at the beginning of his pontificate in his first Encyclical titled “Deus Caritas Est – God is Love” addresses this extraordinary mystery of God’s love for us and the intrinsic link between that Love and human love. I’d like to quote a few paragraphs from his Encyclical.
“Saint John’s words should be interpreted to mean that love of neighbour is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God.
“True, no one has ever seen God as he is. And yet God is not totally invisible to us. He has become visible in as much as he “has sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”
God has made himself visible: in Jesus we are able to see the Father.
Continuing he says:
“Love of neighbour is shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus.
It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend.
“Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.
“If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God.
“But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless.
“Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.”
The Encyclical is beautifully written and I encourage you to read it in full.
Love grows through love.
In our homes, our families, our places of work and study, and in our recreation and pleasures, we are called to use our gifts, our talents, our bodies, our time, our lives to express the reality of God who is love.
That is the meaning of life.
And happiness in life is found in giving love and being loved.
It is extremely hard and difficult to love as Jesus did; discipleship is daunting in a world that worships itself in all its human imperfection. And Jesus knows that. In today’s Gospel, he prays to the Father for us as an intercessor asking for our protection in a world overflowing with evil.
Jesus knows that discipleship doesn’t bring shelter or escape from hardship and pain; it promises rather strength, comfort, hope and grace to face and overcome the unavoidable difficulties, struggles and evils of life.
We live in a world that consistently offers countless alternative promises and means of happiness; all of which have been shown through time to be futile.
We live in a world that places seemingly unlimited value on the selfish interests and rights of nations and individuals at the expense of love for God and neighbour. And yet without that very love, this life has little value.