Sunday, May 17, 2009

This is my command: Love One Another (2)

When I read over the First Reading for this Sunday, I opened the tenth chapter of Acts, and read the story there. I remember writing about this chapter recently, and I wondered if I had written a reflection for the wrong Sunday. I checked back, and found that the First Reading for Easter Sunday is taken from the same chapter. So, having refreshed my memory, I thought it appropriate to refresh yours.

Cornelius, a company commander in the Roman Army, is a pagan, but a prayerful man. He receives a vision from an angel of the LORD, telling him that his prayer and generosity have made him acceptable to God. He is advised to send for Peter, who is in Joppa, a town now called Haifa, on the southern coast of Israel, near the Gaza strip.

Meanwhile, Peter, who is taking a nap before dinner, has a dream which suggests that he is rather hungry. A big sheet comes down from the sky, with all sorts of creatures in it, many if not all of them not kosher. Peter, who rarely has his tongue in his pocket, protests, “I don’t eat unclean food!” The voice responds: “Since God has made it clean, who are you to say it is unclean?”

While Peter is mulling this over, the messengers sent by Cornelius arrive to bring him to Caesarea. When he gets there, Cornelius has gathered his friends and family to listen to what Peter has to say. After Peter has finished speaking, in a part of Acts 10 we don’t hear in today’s reading, the Holy Spirit descends on the gathering, and Peter announces that all of these pagan Romans are to be baptized.

The Jewish disciples of Jesus who accompanied Peter to Caesarea are puzzled that these pagan men are going to be baptized without first being circumcised. At this point, Peter’s vision of the unclean and clean animals comes into new focus. The message is not only about what food is acceptable to God, but about who is acceptable to God. Peter understands that the mission of the Church is to bring the message of God, the Father who creates, the Son who redeems, and the Spirit who sanctifies, to the entire world. In brief, God does not play favorites. The “New Creation” brought about by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus includes everyone who is willing to believe in God’s law.

Today’s gospel and second reading are expressions of the God's Law, that, like the first reading, are echoed over and over again during the Easter Season.

The second reading and the gospel of this Sunday are, like the first reading, proclaimed in the Sunday and daily masses of the Paschal season, the gospel as recently as the day before yesterday. It seems clear that the Holy Spirit wants to be sure we get the message:

1 John 4:

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as atonement for our sins.

John 15:

9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.

At this point, I have nothing more to say, except to close with the words of the Apostle and Evangelist as set to music by someone who, like myself, bears the same given name:

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

No comments: