Sermon from Easter 5
Jesus Said “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”
At this time of year, late in Eastertide and close to the Ascension, the scripture readings take us back to what are known as the “farewell discourses” of Jesus. In the events that took place before the crucifixion, Jesus is preparing to take leave of his disciples. Of course, he wants to leave them with something to remember. Jesus came into the world for a reason, and he called his disciples for a special purpose. He was not just about to leave them without any thoughts to guide them in the time ahead.
Today’s Gospel reading is no exception. It is the last supper, Judas has already departed and we are told that Jesus is contemplating the Cross and what lies before him. The apostles cannot follow him yet, but he gives them a new commandment by which the world will know that they are His follows – his disciples.
If we were approaching the end of our life in this world, what would we want to say to the people who had shared our lives? I suppose most of us find it too hard to contemplate putting these things into words. Even so, we would want to feel reassured that we had been able to pass something on that was worthwhile – something that could be remembered. I guess the most important thing is not our academic achievements, our wealth or success, but rather who loved us and who we loved.
When Jesus talks about commandments we need to know that he did not leave behind a set of rules that we have to live out with only our own human strength to rely on. There was really only one commandment:
“Love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.”
It is a very easy commandment to remember, but can be a difficult one to live by, with lots of false starts and good intentions that run into the sand. But it is not a commandment that we are expected to keep just in our own strength. It comes first of all as a pure gift from God: a gift of grace. It is love that enables us to become instruments of God’s grace in the world. Our love, if it is genuine, becomes the channel through which people can experience something of the love of God.
There is a wonderful story of an American Journalist who was watching Saint Mother Teresa caring for a man with gangrene. The journalist remarked “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars, to which Mother Teresa replied “Even I wouldn’t do it for that amount. However, I do it out of Love for God.”
Like Saint Mother Teresa, we Christians live out the story of Jesus in our own particular lives in all sorts of different ways. We can live it more fruitfully when God makes his home in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we approach Pentecost let us pray that the gift of the Spirit may be renewed in our own lives and that we might be open to receive what God is longing to give. It is only through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are able to see the love of God in our lives and find the strength to love other people as Jesus loves us.
We might not always live out that commandment perfectly, but the love of God is all that we need to see us through. Those who seek true love rather than revenge or hatred open themselves to the possibilities of greater happiness. As one commentator put it; “while faith makes all things possible, love makes all things easy. Love heals everyone – both those who receive it and those who give it.”
True love which is of God brings out the best in those who dare to do so… people are at their best when they love.
For as another scripture reminds us
“God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.”
And as I say to wedding couples
“Love and be loved… forgive and be forgiven.
I am a rather old Saint.