DETAILED HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C
THEME: LOVE: OUR CHRISTIAN IDENTITY
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY MAY 15 2022
R1 – Acts 14:21-27
R2 – Rev 21:1-5
GOSPEL – John 13:31-33,34-35
The renowned French artist, Paul Gustave Dore, once lost his passport while traveling in another country in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. Dore’s actions confirmed his identity.
Beloved in Christ, the Gospel reading of today’s liturgy calls our attention to always be mindful of our Christian identity: “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 (John 13:34-5).
The first reading, describes how the early Christian communities helped the work of renewal in their members which could not have been achieved without the spirit of agápe love, exemplified by Paul and Barnabas.
However, just as the renowned artist in the introit story, whose actions confirmed his identity as a seasoned artist before the border officials; we too, are reminded that, it is not our mere church membership card or proof of belongingness to a particular denomination or Christian prayer group or sodality that makes us Christians. Rather, our Christian membership and identity is proven by our show of love to one another.
*IDENTITY OF THE CHRISTIAN*
William Shakespeare once said:
“Cucullus non facit monachum” (A hood does not make a monk). In other words, the monkish identity and lifestyle are not manifested or does not hinge merely on the cassock or regalia, rather on the observance of the features and characteristics of the monastic lifestyle.
Hence, wearing of big scapula, medal, rosary, carrying a big bible or mere attendance ti Masses and other liturgical and devotional activities do not constitute a Christian. Rather our ability to show love in practical terms. That is why the Scripture says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1Cod. 13:1). Invariably, a Christian name or a cross on a chain will not make us Christians, unless we practice Jesus’ new commandment of love given in today’s Gospel.
Therefore, love itself is the Christian’s identity. Love is the Christian’s uniform. Love is the Christian’s habit. If you are wearing the habit of love, you are in. If you are not wearing love as a habit, you are out.
*FEATURES OF THE CHRISTIAN (Agape) LOVE*
There is no definition of perfect love but there are characteristics. There might not be any fixed formula to identify a true love. Sometimes we fall for the worst people out there and sometimes we come across angelic souls. Being mindful of the following features will help us practice this Christian love:
One of the greatest evidence of love is sacrifice. Agape is a sacrificial kind of love that has to do with giving up something for the sake of the beloved. Sacrificing doesn’t always mean you have to get hurt to make them happy. The first type is when you are ready to kill your own egos, attitudes, toxic habits, and all the negative aspects of your life. The second is when you prioritize their happiness and vice versa. Ultimately, someone ought to make sacrifice for the other. But this can only work out when both are sacrificing and not just one person is compromising
Love is selfless, not selfish. Agape thinks of the good of another. Love is altruistic, always focusing on the other, not the self. When you love someone selflessly, it means that you are willing to love them even if they don’t love you back or treat you the way that other people do. You should be willing to put your feelings aside and ignore any rude behavior because love is selfless.
Agape entails self-giving or self emptying. We must be ready to burn like the candle for the beloved to see.
We cannot remain the same when we truly love. God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In Christ’s redemptive act, we see the perfect evidence of self-giving. The Scripture says, “He emptied himself and took the for of a slave…” (Phil. 2:7).
In Christianity, agape is an unconditional form of love. Infact, the highest form of love, charity and the love of God for man and of man for God. This is in contrast to Philia, Storge, Eros, brotherly love, or even philautia (self-love) that have conditions and exclusive features. It embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. It knows no boundaries, tribe, race, colour or nation. It entails loving everyone for God’s sake; seeking peace and getting ready to forgive for God’s sake.
(1) *WE SHOULD LEARN TO LOVE OURSELVES SO THAT WE CAN LOVE EACH OTHER*
Even though we try to evade and shy away from self-love in its strictest sense, but the old commandment which states: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:1-2, 9-18), laid the foundation of agape on the self. We cannot strive to cherish others and care for them if we have never learned to do the same for ourselves? Most of us even devalues our own lives… Do people who live on hard drugs really love themselves? How are we to love ourselves when we are told over and over again that we are unlovable? Only those persons who are fully convinced that they are themselves lovable because God has loved them and so brought them into being can reach out comfortably and unconditionally to love those who themselves cannot love but can only hurt and hate and destroy.
(2) *OUR LOVE FOR OTHERS SHOULD BE DEMONSTRATED*
Love they said is a doing word. It does not worth it if it is not demonstrated. Our identity as Christians is accomplished not by mere possession of our identity for membership to a particular behaviour., rather, when we operate on the demonstrative principles laid down for us by our saviour. He demonstrated his love by laying down his life for us on the cross.
Finally, there was a little girl who was born without an ear. She became shy, depressed and highly introverted person. There were times when she would go home crying because her classmates made fun of her. When she became a teenager, her mother brought her to a surgeon who performed an ear transplant on her. The operation was successful and she became a normal and happy person.
Not long after she had suitors coming here and there. After several years, she decided to get married. On the eve of her wedding day, she went inside her mother’s room to thank her. But as she embraced her, she noticed something strange…something absent. She realized that beneath the long hair of her mother was a missing ear. She cried and said: “It was you! All these years you didn’t tell me it was you.” The mother replied: “My child, I didn’t tell you because I don’t want you to be sad for me. I did it because I want you to be happy, to see you happy with your life. You don’t lose something when you give it to someone you love.”
Beloved, indeed the Christian love (agape) which is our identity as Christians is demonstrated not merely pronounced or professed.
MAY THE GOOD LORD GRANT US A LOVING HEART AND WILL THAT CARE FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS, OTHER THAN OURSELVES ALONE. AMEN.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA_