Fr. Ben’s homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter Year B
Theme: REMAIN IN MY LOVE!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Sunday May 9 2021
* Act 10 : 25 – 48, 1 Jn 4 : 7 – 10, Jn 15 : 9 – 17.
Last Sunday we were told the need to remain connected to Jesus Christ as the true vine – the power source of our holiness and strength. Today, we are told how to remain in this fellowship; how to maintain this connection through the language of love. In the 1st reading, the power of love carries Peter into the gentile family of Cornelius and the Holy Spirit was released there and there. The second reading informs us that God’s identity is love. Wherever there is love there is God and vice versa. The gospel now presents us with the full dynamics of this ‘agape’ love.
B. THE DYNAMICS OF AGAPE LOVE
Love means so many different things to so many different people; For some it is just all about attraction (eros), For some it is all about family, blood or racial bonding (filia) but for us Christians it is all about sacrifice, care, giving and laying down of life agape). Eric Fromm, talking about this kind of love says : ‘Mature love says “I need you because I love you”. Immature love says, ” I love you because I need you “. Jesus discusses in today’s gospel the following 5 dimensions of agape love ;
1. BOUNDLESS LOVE ; The love that Jesus teaches us goes beyond mere biological or friendship ties. Biological and friendly love alone stultifies progress in a Society and renders the society full of favouritism and partiality. That is part of why Nigeria is decaying because if UNN for instance wants to employ 5000 workers, the job may end up going to those who have a connection to the Vice Chancellor and not to the most qualified. The first lesson Jesus teaches us about charity is that it begins at home but does not end at home. Each time his mother and relations came around his ministry he reminded everybody that ‘My mother and relations are those who hear the Word of God and keep it’, Matt 12 : 46 -50.
2. SACRIFICIAL LOVE ; ‘Greater love has no man than this that a man lays down his life for those he loves’. And let me add the retrograde inversion form (as musicologists will often say) : ‘Smaller love has no man than this that a man lays down his life for those he hates’. This is what we see each time we hear of suicide bombers or Fulani herdsmen brutality. Reminds me of the Hobbesian original state of nature where life is ‘cruel, nasty, brutish and short’.
3. OBEDIENT LOVE ; Christ says : ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’. St John says : ‘If you say you love him and disobeys his commandments then you are a liar’, 1 Jn 4 : 20. ‘You are my friends’, says Christ, ‘if you keep my commandments’.
4. FRIENDLY LOVE ; Christ also says : ‘You are my friends because you have known my motive’. Knowledge of the Will and the Word of God and alignment with this knowledge is one characteristic of agape love. The believers were first called ‘Christians’ in Antioch when people noticed this alignment to Christ’s teachings.
5. FRUITFUL LOVE ; ‘I chose you and commissioned you to go and bear fruits that will last’. Love is the most practical and effective tool of evangelization. A radio evangelist once said that : ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’.
* Story of a man who gave a very big expanse of land to Fulani herdsmen somewhere in Anambra State. His simple reason was that they were the only ones that have ever helped him to survive in life.
C. THE LOVE MANDATE
I can hear Jesus saying again and again to us his followers : ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. Let his own love be our pattern, motive and measure. I often say this : ‘Those who cannot love those who love them are mad /occult people ; Those who can only love those who love them are pagans ; But only those who can love those who hate them are the Christians ‘. This is the summary of what Jesus taught in his sermon on the Mountain, Matt 5 : 45 – 48.
Christianity has remained like a rolling stone gathering no moss in those countries and climes where these words of Christ have not been taken seriously. As Gilbert Keith Chesterton said : ‘Christianity in most places cannot be said to have failed but just has not been tried’. Mhh! I hope Nigeria is not one of those places ?
Our love must not be mere words or mere thoughts. Karl Marx said that ‘Philosophers have perfectly interpreted the world but the challenge remains for us to change it’. We can only change it with the language of love. When Mother Theresa of Calcutta was asked by journalists : ‘How can we solve the world’s problems?’ Her reply was simple : ‘Go home and love one another’. Vima Dasan says that ‘The civilization of love must be the true goal of human history’.
We pray a lot in Nigeria but love very little.
* Fr Kevin Eze of Nsukka Diocese once told a very beautiful story in his reflection in the Nsukka Diocese Shepherd Sunday bulletin of a very rich family who got so used to praying and shouting to God to help the poor around them that one day their first son decided to take some food items from the house to give to the hungry children of their poor neighbour and the parents nearly strangled him to death.
St John of the Cross reminds us that ‘At the evening of our lives, we shall all be judged for our love’. The highest principle of remaining in fellowship with Christ is to remain in his love.
Happy Sunday dear friends!
FR BEN AGBO