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Monday, April 25, 2016

Love One Another As I Have Loved You

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
5th Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

“Love one another as I have loved you."

In today’s Gospel (John 13:31-35), Our Lord is preparing for His passion, and as He prepares, He gives His disciples a new commandment. 

What is this new commandment? It is love.  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is a commandment that every person must live if he or she wants to attain to eternal life.

Although Our Lord Jesus speaks of love as a new commandment, it is technically not new. For example, the commandment to love one another is found in the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus Chapter 19 where God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yet, there is something new about this commandment: Our Lord introduces Himself as the standard for love. We must learn to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus has shown us the most perfect example of love. Even though He is God, He humbled Himself and came into the world as a slave. He suffered the most extreme torture on the cross so that we can come to know God’s love for us and share in His love for all eternity!

The love that Christ gives us is a love that renews our entire person. It is a love that divests us of our former selves and clothes us with a new self. Therefore, when we love as Jesus loves, we become a new man or a new woman. We clothe ourselves in the white of purity so that we can share in the very life of God at the end of time.

We get an image of our new life with God at the end of time in today’s second reading (Revelation 21:1-5). Saint John sees a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth -- the world we live in today -- passed away. John sees the holy city, a new Jerusalem, come down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.

John hears a voice saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God… for the old order has passed away.”

Our world is passing away. Our Lord is coming again soon to establish His Kingdom of pure love. Whatever is not of Christ's love will be purified or destroyed.

Therefore, if we want to share in eternal life,  we must strive to follow Our Lord’s commandment of love.

Such a commandment is not a superficial love. Our Lord’s love on earth was faithful, sacrificial, and truthful. His love was selfless and whole. Our Lord’s love was a commitment to His Father. He calls His disciples to follow His example of faithfulness and commitment, loving God and one another. 

Love means we want the best for the other person. We want to help all who God places in our lives to go to heaven. But love always requires truth. It requires that we don't live the lies that society teaches us but the divine truths Christ handed down to us.

To live love in truth is not easy. It requires sacrifice. Yet, sacrifice and difficulty are essential if we want to attain eternal life. We are reminded of this in today’s first reading (Acts 14:21-27). Saints Paul and Barnabas remind the disciples to persevere in faith, saying, "It is necessary that we undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

If we want to enter into the Kingdom of God, it is necessary that we undergo many hardships. We must make many sacrifices.
In our time and culture today, people don’t want to sacrifice. We want things easy. Yet, faith is not meant to be easy. Faith requires a change of direction, and this means that we must be stretched to the limits of our endurance.

Our Lord has said that if we want to be His disciples, then we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross. As Christians we are called to deny whatever in our world is contrary to God’s plan of eternal life.

The cross is a contradiction today. Many  seek to indulge in the pleasures of the world, to live as they want.  Our society teaches  there is no sanctity in marriage, nor is life sacred. The world's message is just use one another, and your own body as you want. Your bodies do not belong to God, but to yourself. 

Yet, Jesus teaches this is not so. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. God created our sexuality as a means to share in His love. In fact, the gift of sexual union between a man and woman in marriage is the most perfect and sacred way that humanity can share in  God’s love. But the world has trampled on this most sacred gift, turning it into an act of selfishness, perversion, and self-gratification.

Fr John Paul Shea 
My brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel our Lord gives us a new commandment. He teaches us that we must love one another as He has loved us. Our Lord’s commandment is not easy, but it is a commandment each one of us must embrace if we want to be His disciple and attain to eternal life. May God bless us and help us.

Did you enjoy this sermon? There are many more. You might like I Am the Good Shepherd    

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