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God is love

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May 14, 2009

By Terrance Callan

Sixth Sunday of Easter (B). Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

It is natural for us to care most about the people close to us and those who are most like us. And we easily assume that God cares more about us than about those who differ from us geographically, ethnically, religiously. But God loves all, without discrimination, and calls us to be like God in loving all people.

The reading from the first letter of John reminds us that we know of God’s love for us because He sent His Son into the world so that we might have life through Him. And God not only sent His son, but sent Him as an offering for our sins; God sent Him to die for us.

The reading from the Gospel according to John is the continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel reading. It tells us that the coming of the Son of God into the world is not only God’s act of love for us, but also that of the Son. As Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

It is chiefly the reading from the Acts of the Apostles that shows that God’s love is offered to all without discrimination. In this reading we hear what happened when Peter was sent to preach to the household of Cornelius, a Gentile. 

According to Acts, this was the first time that the early church preached the good news to someone who was not a Jew. Before this time the early Christians had assumed that Jesus was simply the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation for Israel, the people of God. But when God poured out the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family, Peter realized that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus meant salvation not only for Israel, but also for the Gentiles, in other words, for all people.

The readings not only tell us that God loves all, but also call us to be like God in loving others. The reading from Acts makes this point indirectly when Peter, having seen God’s acceptance of the Gentiles, concludes that neither he nor anyone else should prevent their being baptized.

The reading from the first letter of John gives us a logical argument. Love is so characteristic of God that anyone who has really known God will love. This is so much the case that the presence (or absence) of love in our lives can be used as a test of whether we really do have knowledge of God (or do not).

Finally, the Gospel reading speaks of our need to keep Jesus’ commandment, the commandment to love one another as Jesus has loved us. And since Jesus loved us to the fullest possible extent, laying down His life for us, He calls us to have that same love for each other. 

This seems too much to ask. But Jesus also promises the Father’s help; He says that whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name, the Father will give us. This is the source of our hope to be able to love each other as Jesus loved us.


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