Easter V – Love another as I have loved you

God does not love us because we are lovely or loveable ; His love exists not on account of our character, but on account of His. Our highest experience is responsive not initiative. And it is only because we are loved by Him that we are loveable.

Fulton Sheen Rejoice 1984:9

In this morning’s Gospel we begin to see a change in the character of our celebration of Easter, as it begins to look forward to our celebration of the Lord’s Ascension, when He will return to the glory of Heaven and the bosom of the Father, when he will no longer be visibly present among us as he was before, but is also not absent. Before he goes, he gives his disciples teaching which is clear and simple: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures contain 613 commandments, starting with ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ in Genesis, including the Decalogue, the command to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, to love our neighbour as ourselves. He has come not to abolish the law but to fulfil it, and love is the fulfilment of the law. As Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment he also enacts it Himself, He shows his love for humanity in dying for us, by bearing the burden of our sins, by going to death upon a Cross for love of us: this is what real love means and looks like in action. In this Christ establishes a pattern for Christians to live their lives by, as Christians, those who bear the name of Christ, we are to live like this too.

This is what following Christ means in practice: living and dying like Christ, together, so that by this all will know that we are his disciples, through love lived out in our lives we proclaim the reality and the truth of our faith. It’s something which we do together, and while it sounds easy in theory it is a bit harder in practice, and it is why we need to stay close to Christ in Word and Sacrament, to pray together, to support and forgive each other, so that we can live a life of love, not saccharin-sweet as the world sees it, but real, sacrificial love, the sort which has the power to transform the world so that it becomes more Christ-like.

These are not idealist pipe-dreams but the reason why we are Christians, we want to see a world transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ, into a place of peace, and joy, and love. Christ gives us this commandment so that we may have life and have it to the full, in and through Him, the source of all life and love. So as we continue to celebrate Christ’s triumph over sin and the world, over death itself, let us be filled with His life and joy, and share His love so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now, and forever.

Easter IV

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says of himself, ‘I am the Good Shepherd’  It discloses something important about who and what he is — he is one who tends, who looks after his sheep. The Jews in the Temple for Hanukkah don’t seem to have been listening. Jesus has told them and they do not believe that He is the Messiah. What he does in the Gospels testifies to who and what he is, the Word made flesh, God with us.

Those of us who are in the Church, through our Baptism belong to Him, we are His. So we are to listen to what Jesus tells us, in the words of Scripture and through prayer. Jesus knows us and we know him – in word and sacrament, through the outpouring of His grace, and so we follow Him, we do what He tells us to do, to love, to forgive each other, we are humble, we don’t think of ourselves as better than we are, we know our ned of, our dependance upon God. We put our faith into practice in our lives, so that it becomes a reality in the world.

Christ offers us eternal life, as we share in His death, so we too share in His Resurrection, and are assured of eternal life with Him, something wonderful and freely given, and a reason why we, as the Church, celebrate Easter in an extravagant and exuberant way, because it is a sign that God loves us, and saves us, that salvation first shown to the world by Noah , a man who trusts God, who listens to God, who obeys Him. We are sharing in that Eternal Life here and now, as we are nourished by Him, in Word and Sacrament, strengthened by Him, to live His risen life

We are to bear witness to our faith in the world so that it may believe. We are called to be witnesses regardless of the cost. We may not face persecution in this country; we are more likely to be faced with indifference, a coldness of heart, which denies the fact that what we are and what we say is important or has value. Yet we are to live lives which proclaim the fact that our life and death have meaning and value through Jesus Christ, who loves us, who died for us, and rose again so that we might have eternal life in him. It is a gift so precious that we have to share it, we cannot keep it for ourselves. In sharing it, it becomes a greater and more wonderful gift. In sharing it we are preparing for that moment seen by St John when all of creation will sing the praise of God, filled with his love, healed and restored by him.

We are preparing for that moment here and now preparing to be fed by him, to be fed with him, looking forward to that time when we and all creation will sing the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as it most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.