Homily 6th Sunday of Easter A - Loving Christ Means Observing His Commandments
During these Sundays of the Easter Season, the Church takes us back to the Last Supper, giving us a chance to dig deeper into its meaning.
- Throughout his Last Supper discourse, Christ's constant refrain is: if you love me, you will keep my commandment.
- That commandment is to "love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34), the commandment of Christian charity.
- These are his parting words to his closest disciples, the last flow of love from his Sacred Heart before it is broken and pierced.
They are special words. We need to hear them, to let them sink in.
- Jesus knows that these twelve men are normal, fallen human beings. They are weak and ignorant, stubborn, and headstrong.
- And yet, he also knows that they truly love him. They want to be his disciples.
- They are just like us: flawed, but committed.
- He earnestly desires to teach them how to live out their commitment to him, and so he gives them his new commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.
That is the mark of a Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ.
- It's not in pretty words, fancy rituals, and complicated prayers.
- It's in following the example of Christ, who gave his life for us on the cross.
- To give our lives, leaving behind our comfort zones in order to help our neighbors and build a better world,
- to be truthful, responsible, honest, pure, and faithful even when it feels like we're being crucified,
- that's how we follow Christ.
This is the path to loving him and living life to the full.
It was the path he taught his Apostles, it's the path he teaches us, and it's the path he blazed before us by his passion, death, and resurrection.
St Martin of Tours lived in the 300s and became one of the key founders and pillars of Christian civilization.
- He started the first two monasteries in France, each of which thrived for 1200 years, until the Protestant Reformation destroyed them.
- He became a bishop and converted thousands of pagans through his preaching and a steady stream of amazing miracles.
- He put his own life in jeopardy again and again in order to defend the true faith.
But his most famous action was his very first Christian deed.
- As the son of a Roman military officer, he was forced to join the army when he was 15.
- Still a teenager, he was stationed in France, where he heard about the Christian faith.
- When he was about 20, he reached a turning point.
- He was coming back into the city after a hard day's patrol.
- It was winter and bitter cold.
- As he approached the city gate he saw a starved, half-naked man shivering and begging.
- People were laughing at and insulting the poor man; no one gave him anything.
- Martin sensed that Christ wanted him to do something.
- But all he had was his magnificent military cloak and his armor.
- He stopped his huge warhorse and dismounted.
- He removed his heavy cloak and, taking his sword, cut it in half.
- He wrapped one half around the poor beggar and put the other half back on his own shoulders.
- Now the onlookers laughed at him.
- That night, in a dream, he saw our Lord wrapped in that half cloak he had given away, and heard him say, "Martin, not yet baptized, has covered me with this garment."
- After that, he retired from the Emperor's army, joined Christ's army, and changed the course of history.
St Martin had learned what being a Christian really means: loving one another as Christ has loved us.
Being like Christ is too much for us.
- He was true man, but he was also true God - something that is beyond our limited reach.
- If we depend just on our own strength, intelligence, and personality, we will never be able to fulfill the commandment that Jesus has given us - not all the time, not every day.
- We will become bitter, frustrated, burned out, angry, depressed.
- We were never meant to do it alone.
- Jesus knows we can't do it alone.
That's why he invented the sacrament of confirmation, the sacrament of supernatural strengthening.
- In the Reading from the Book of Acts, Philip the Deacon preaches the Gospel in Samaria and baptizes a huge number of converts.
- That's the beginning of their Christian lives. That's their decision to become Christ's followers.
- But when the news gets back to the Apostles in Jerusalem, Peter and John make a special trip out to Samaria in order to call down the Holy Spirit upon them - to administer the sacrament of confirmation.
This is what Jesus was speaking about when he promised that after he returned to heaven - an event we will commemorate this week on Ascension Thursday - he would send us an "Advocate, to be with us always."
The Advocate is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, who resides in our hearts.
This is Christ's greatest gift to us: our own inner source of supernatural light and strength to live out the great commandment of Christian charity.
That same Spirit will make Christ present again in this Mass, and when we receive Christ in the Eucharist,
- let's thank the Lord for this great gift,
- and let's ask for the grace to live by the power of this Spirit, just like Christ, loving one another as he has loved us.