Friday, May 15, 2009

The One Command I Give You Is This: LOVE ONE ANOTHER

As Paul and Barnabas continue their missionary journey in Asia Minor, an underlying conflict continues between two viewpoints: Some insist that new converts to the Way of Jesus first become Jews; others consider that this is not necessary. The conflict is not resolved until the question is brought before the Council of Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem. The decision of that First Ecumenical Council can be summed up in a single sentence, which expresses a principle that must guide and direct the leaders of every community of God's people within Christ's Church, whether local, regional, national or worldwide: God is the creator of the people of every race, place and time; he invites all of them to become fully his own, and he wants to make it easy for them.

The apostles and elders chose two of their number to join Paul and Barnabas in Antioch: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, who were both known for their leadership ability. The Council composed this letter to be sent with them:

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings!

We have heard that you were visited by some who left here without any mandate from us, and brought a message that troubled you. So we have agreed to choose some of our companions and send them to you, and to work with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul. They are men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm in person what we are writing here:

It is the will of the Holy Spirit and our judgment not to burden you with anything beyond the following minimum requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from uncooked meat, from the flesh of strangled animals, and from sexual misbehavior. You would be best to avoid these things. Farewell.

When Judas and Silas arrived in Antioch, they assembled the community and delivered the message. The people received it well, and were happy with its encouraging words.


In today's gospel, Jesus continues his farewell address to the disciples, at the end of the Seder banquet they celebrated together on the night before he died:

I have only one commandment to give you: Love one another as I have loved you.

No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends. You are not my servants, but my friends. I cannot call you servants, because servants don't know their master's business. I call you my friends, because I have shared with you everything that I learned from my Father.

You might think that you chose to become my followers, but the truth is that I am the one who has chosen you to be my friends. I have appointed you my messengers, and sent you forth to go out and bear fruit -- fruit that will last. You are truly my friends if you do what I ask you to do. Obey my directives, to the best of your ability, and the Father will grant you whatever you want in my name.

This is my command to you: Love one another.

Some years ago, I was invited on a weekend retreat. The retreat master was Father Norbert M. Dorsey, C. P., a Passionist father who later was appointed Bishop of Orlando in Florida. I can't help thinking about that conference while composing these reflections on Jesus' Farewell Address, and the mission of Paul and Silas. His theme, and the theme of these readings is LOVE and JOY.

I will continue in dialogue form, because it makes the message clearer. My words will be in in this type face; Philothea's (the traditional name for the interlocutor in these dialogues since Francis de Sales and Jeanne de Chantal) will be in italics.

So, for our joy to be complete, His joy must be in us.
For any joy at all to be in us, since all joy comes from Him.

The greatest joy would be to be in heaven with Him.
Yes, but only when that moment comes.

Then, the real message is to be joyful all the time.
That is true. Be joyful in the present moment.

You said once that Jesus was joyful on the Cross. Didn't you hear that at a retreat?
Yes, that's true. Jesus had joy in his heart because He was doing the Father's will.

Were the people who were martyred for their faith joyful, too?
Yes, they were. Do you know why?

Because they were offering their lives as witness to their faith in Him.
Well said! That's what martyr means, and what martyrdom is: witness to the faith.

So, our goal is to reach Heaven, where we will be together not only with Jesus, but with everyone who has ever believed in him. All of us together will worship Him and adore Him. We will be in Him and He will be in us, fully and forever.
Again, well said! But not only us who have learned of Him and believed in Him, but all thoSe who have lived their lives according to His law, even though they've never heard of Him.

That's because God's Law is written in their hearts.
True. And what is God's law?

Jesus said it in the gospel: The one command I give you is to love one another.
That is the whole law and all the prophets. And that is the end of today's dialogue.

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