HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C
THEME: AS I HAVE LOVED YOU
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY MAY 15 2022
1. Worry Clinic. A physician and marriage counselor from Chicago, George W. Crane III, best known for his 60 year-long newspaper column, “Worry Clinic” shared this experience. A woman visited his office and said she was full of hatred toward her husband because of years of domestic abuse. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.” Dr. Crane suggested to her an ingenious plan: “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” She executed the plan with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Dr Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds. (Retold by J. Allan Petersen). Interestingly, her sacrificial actions of love for him, much like Christian “agape”, brought back feelings that enhanced conjugal love.
2. New Commandment. Brothers and Sisters, the unconditional and sacrificial love that God has for us in Christ, which Christ commands us in today’s Gospel reading (Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35), promotes and perfects every other kind of love, romantic love in marriage (eros), affection for siblings and parents (storge) and friendship between colleagues (philia). It does more. It includes ones enemies. It heals broken relationships and brings peace. Our Lord makes it a new commandment: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34). But what is new about this commandment? In Mt 22:27, our Lord repeated the Old Testament command to love God with all our heart (Dt 6:5) and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Lev 19:18), as the greatest commandments. And now, instead of “love your neighbour as yourself”, it is “love your neighbour as Christ has loved you”. Christ is the new model of love. “As I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34). Concretely, how has Christ loved us? This question reminds me of a depiction of the Cross, with a purple cloth hanging on it and with the words: I asked Jesus, “How much do You love me?” “This much,” He answered. Then He stretched out His arms and died. That’s only part of the story. The life, teachings, miracles, death, resurrection of Christ are concrete manifestations of God’s love for us. Remember John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” Our Lord explained further: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” (Jn 15:9). So over to us. Concretely, how do we love one another as Christ has loved us? Today’s 1st reading (Acts 14:21-27) says, “through many hardships”.
3. Through Many Hardships. Paul and Barnabas spoke of hardships that must be faced in the work of love: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Certainly sacrificial love engenders many hardships. Sisters and brothers, can we pray about these hardships as the Apostles did in today’s 1st reading? Can we encourage ourselves by sharing how the grace of God has helped us to endure and overcome these hardships? Let me share just one of these hardships, namely, the hardship of seeing that your love is not reciprocated. It is the hardship of betrayal by the ones you love. It is the hardship of being taken for granted because you love. It is the hardship of not being loved in return. It is a serious hardship. But it can be overcome by looking forward. It can be overcome by sharing in the vision of today’s 2nd Reading (Rev 21:1-5). In a new Heaven and a new Earth, God will wipe away tears from our eyes, no more sadness. Yes, this new Jerusalem, will have God dwelling with us, in God’s full glory. It will be a kingdom of justice, love and peace, a kingdom of holiness in its fullness. For now, it is holiness mixed with weakness, love mixed with fears, peace mixed with insecurity. But because we believe and hope for a new Heaven we are not discouraged by present hardships in our labors of love.