Easter 5 C - Love One Another

From Father Tony Kadavil’s Stable: 

1) The renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore once lost his passport while traveling in Europe.

When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. "All right," said the official, "we'll give you a test, and if you pass it we'll allow you to go through." Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His action confirmed his identity. In today’s gospel Jesus gives us the mark of Christian identity: “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 (John 13:34-5).Love is the Christian identity. Love is the Christian uniform. Love is the Christian habit. If you are wearing the habit of love, you are in. If you are not wearing love as a habit, you are out. (Fr. Essau) . Let us remember the words of Shakespeare in Measure for Measure, "Cucullus non facit monachum (the hood does not make a monk).” A Christian name or a cross on a chain will not make us Christians unless we practice Jesus’ new commandment of love given in today’s gospel. 

2) "Wow! I would like to be that kind of brother.”  

In the lovely book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, there's a story about a man who came out of his office one Christmas morning and found a little boy from a nearby project looking with great admiration at the man’s new vehicle. The little boy asked, "Does this car belong to you?" And the man said, "Yes, in fact my brother gave it to me for Christmas. I've just gotten it." With that, the little boy's eyes widened. He said, "You mean to say that somebody gave it to you? And you didn't have to pay anything for it?" And the man said, "That's right. My brother gave it to me as a gift." With that the little boy let out a long sigh and said, "Boy, I would really like..." And the man fully expected the boy to say, "I would like to have a brother like that, who would give me such a beautiful car," but instead the man was amazed when the little boy said, "Wow! I would like to be that kind of brother. I wish I could give that kind of car to my little brother." Somehow that child understood the secret of the “new commandment” of love, which Jesus gave to his apostles during his last discourse, as described in today’s gospel: “Love one another as I have loved you.” True love consists, not in "getting" something from the lover, but in "giving" something to the loved one. The most familiar example of this type of love is a mother’s love for her child. 

3) “Little children love one another:”  

St. Jerome relates of the apostle John that when he became old he used to be carried to the churches and assemblies, everywhere repeating the words, “Little children, love one another.” His disciples, wearied by the constant repetition, asked him why he always said this. “Because,” he replied, “it is the Lord’s commandment, and if it only be fulfilled, it is enough.” John knew that the greatest truth was most apt to be forgotten because it was taken for granted. This is one of the greatest calamities in the Christian Church and the one that causes divisions.  

4) The bomber and the victim:  

Two World War II veterans, a German and an American, were attending a three-day seminar. As they were washing dishes one evening after dinner they exchanged stories about the war. The American told of the horror he felt as a young pilot during the particularly savage bombing of a city in Germany. He had orders to bomb a hospital, which he would know by the huge Red Cross painted on the roof. The German -- somewhat shocked by the story -- revealed that his wife had been giving birth to their baby in that very hospital when it was being bombed, resulting in the death of the mother and the baby. After a few minutes of silence the two men fell into each other’s arms weeping. Imagine being in heaven, at the end of the world, where we fall weeping upon one another, waves of reconciliation breaking upon us as we adjust ourselves to this dimension of pure love which Jesus demands from his followers in today’s gospel passage.  

5) One Sunday a priest was finishing up a series on marriage. At the end of the service he was giving out small wooden crosses to each married couple. He said, "Place this cross in the room in which you fight the most and you will be reminded of Jesus’ new commandment and you won’t argue as much." One woman came up after the service and said: “You’d better give me five crosses.”

6) Catherine Lawes who transformed a notorious prison with love:  In 1921, Lewis Lawes became the warden at Sing Sing Prison, No prison was tougher than Sing Sing during that time. But when Warden Lawes retired some 20 years later, that prison had become a humanitarian institution. Those who studied the system said credit for the change belonged to Lawes. But when he was asked about the transformation, here's what he said: "I owe it all to my wonderful wife, Catherine, who is buried outside the prison walls." Catherine Lawes was a young mother with three small children when her husband became the warden. Everybody warned her from the beginning that she should never set foot inside the prison walls, but that didn't stop Catherine! When the first prison basketball game was held, she went ... walking into the gym with her three beautiful kids, and she sat in the stands with the inmates. Her attitude was: "My husband and I are going to take care of these men and I believe they will take care of me! I don't have to worry." She insisted on getting acquainted with them and their records. She discovered one convicted murderer was blind so she paid him a visit. Holding his hand in hers she said, "Do you read Braille?" "What's Braille?" he asked. Then she taught him how to read. Years later he would weep in love for her. Later, Catherine found a deaf-mute in prison. She went to school to learn how to use sign language. Many said that Catherine Lawes was the body of Jesus that came alive again in Sing Sing from 1921 to 1937. Then, she was killed in a car accident. The next morning Lewis Lawes didn't come to work, so the acting warden took his place. It seemed almost instantly that the prison knew something was wrong. The following day, her body was resting in a casket in her home, three-quarters of a mile from the prison. As the acting warden took his early morning walk he was shocked to see a large crowd of the toughest, hardest-looking criminals gathered like a herd of animals at the main gate. He came closer and noted tears of grief and sadness. He knew how much they loved Catherine. He turned and faced the men, "All right, men, you can go. Just be sure and check in tonight!" Then he opened the gate and a parade of criminals walked, without a guard, the three-quarters of a mile to stand in line to pay their final respects to Catherine Lawes. And every one of them checked back in. Every one! They learned the commandment of love as practiced by Catherine. [Stories for the Heart compiled by Alice Gray (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1996), pp. 54-55.]

A junior high music teacher had just organized a band in her school. The principal was so proud of the music teacher's efforts that without consulting her he decided that the band should give a concert for the entire school. The music teacher wasn't so sure her young musicians were ready to give a concert, so she tried to talk the principal out of holding the concert, to no avail. Just before the concert was ready to begin, as the music teacher stood on the podium, she leaned forward and whispered to her nervous musicians, "If you're not sure of your part, just pretend to play." And with that, she stepped back, lifted her baton and with a great flourish brought it down. Lo and behold, nothing happened! The band brought forth a resounding silence.

Sometimes we in the church are like that junior high band, unsure of our parts, tentative in our roles, reluctant to trumpet forth the music of faith that God desires of us. And that's because we have trouble deciding what's most important.

 Most of the choices we make in life are not between what is trivial and what is important. Rather, most of the choices we make are usually between what is important and what is more important. This morning's Gospel reading is so timely for us because it shows us what is most important. As we gather in worship today we affirm that the greatest blessing that God has given us is God's love for us -- God's love that forgives us our sins and makes us children of God; God's love that brings us together into a fellowship with one another...
Has it occurred to you that in those parts of the United States where it comes on at 11:30 p.m., "Saturday Night Live" is also Sunday Morning Live? It might be good if we could bring a little more of the humor of that show with us to church on Sunday mornings. The skits on Saturday Night Live aren't always the greatest, but Sunday morning in church isn't always as lively as it should be either, so let's not throw stones. Together with cartoonists like Doug Marlette who gave us the comic strip "Kudzu," and Dana Carvey's "Church Lady," satirists from Mark Twain to Mark Russell help us to see ourselves from refreshing and often enlightening new perspectives.
Marlette sparked renewed appreciation for familiar biblical texts - and it reminds us that translation is as much an art as it is a science, when he gave us gems like this souped-up version of the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the bummed out, for they shall be mellowed ... Blessed are the wimpy, for they shall inherit the whole nine yards ... Blessed are they who are really into righteousness, for they shall pig out ... Blessed are the squeaky clean, heartwise, for they shall check out the chief mucky-muck."
Slightly irreverent, without a doubt, but certainly not sacreligious. The grace of God makes it possible for us to lighten up and develop a sense of humor. Some church calendars recognize this day as Cantate Sunday - a day to celebrate singing and music. Hence, it can also be a day to remind ourselves that the liturgy of the worship service is a kind of play or drama, and that, like the church organist, we can all "play the service," not taking it with the wrong kind of seriousness. Just as we have been learning not to take our physical and historical images of Jesus too seriously because Jesus is as much a symbolic figure as he is an historical person, so too we need to recognize that the liturgical drama of the church is a symbol. Jesus is a symbol for the themes of.....
How Do You Know My Name?
I've always loved the little story about the boy who's trying to learn the Lord's Prayer, and one night as he knelt by his bed, these words came out:

Our Father, who are in heaven
How do you know my name?

Such individualized affection will always remain a mystery to us mortals, and at the same time, let us never forget we're made in the image of that extraordinary love. And doing what Jesus did in loving each one he ever met as if there were none other in all the world is at least an ideal toward which we can reach even if it always remains utterly beyond our complete grasp.

John R. Claypool, Loving as Jesus Loved
Closer to Christ

God never intended God's boundaries to be less than the whole world. Therefore, none of us have a monopoly on God's love. We may feel like we do when we look down on someone different than we are, or when we snicker at someone's misfortune, or when we say, "Thank you, Lord, that I am not like them," or when we say, "It's too bad they do not believe as we believe." But woe be unto us whenever we reek of such arrogance! For when we try to restrict God's grace to ourselves, we cut ourselves off from that very grace. Why? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin may have said it best, "It is impossible to love Christ without loving others, and it is impossible to love others without moving nearer to Christ." 

John K. Bergland, Love without Limits, One Heaven of a Party: Year C Sermons on the First Readings, CSS Publishing Company
Remember You Are Brothers

I am the eldest of three very strong­-willed boys. When I was growing up we had all of the fights and arguments you can imagine of rambunctious boys. Sometimes our disagreements would get so intense we would go to mother to have our righteous indignation ratified. She would often say to us, "You boys go back and resolve it, but remember you are brothers." "But Mom," we would reply, "he took my ball; he said I was a liar." "Mom, he broke the rules." But all she would say was, "You boys go back and resolve it and, remember, you are brothers." It was eventually clear that what was most important to Mother was that we behave, in such a way that demonstrated our bond as brothers. This was even more important to her than our resolution (which she also expected).

I think this is what God says to the church. "I know you have differences, but you must struggle to resolve them as brothers and sisters. This is what I expect of you because you are my children."

Jesus said it this way in the Gospel of John: "By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" [John 13:35].

Nathan D. Baxter, What a Christian Community Can Offer a Polarized Society
A Sympathetic Gesture

Edgar Guest, a renowned American poet at the turn of the century, tells of a neighbor by the name of Jim Potter. Mr. Potter ran the drug store in the small town where Edgar Guest lived. Guest recalled that daily he would pass his neighbor and how they would smile and exchange greetings. But it was a mere casual relationship.

Then came that tragic night in the life of Edgar Guest when his first born child died. He felt lonely and defeated. These were grim days for him and he was overcome with grief. Several days later Guest had reason to go to the drug store run by his neighbor, and when he entered Jim Potter motioned for him to come behind the counter. "Eddie," he said, "I really can't express to you the great sympathy that I have for you at this time. All I can say is that I am terribly sorry, and if you need for me to do anything, you can count on me." 

Many years later Edgar Guest wrote of that encounter in one of his books. This is how he worded it: "Just a person across the way--a passing acquaintance. Jim Potter may have long since forgotten that moment when he extended his hand to me in sympathy, but I shall never forget it--never in all my life. To me it stands out like the silhouette of a lonely tree against a crimson sunset." 

[Suggestion for follow-up on this story]

I have wondered how it is that I want people to remember me when I come to end of life's journey.

[name some accomplishments followed by]

But I really don't care if someone remembers me for that. I really don't.

I do hope that people are able to say of me at the end of my life's pilgrimage: When we were sick he came to us; when we needed help, he was there; when I was down, he lifted me up. In short, I hope that my ministry is remembered for simple acts of kindness. For if that is the case, then my life would have been worth it and I might have come close to fulfilling the greatest commandment in life: Love God and love your neighbor. 

Brett Blair and Staff,
Didn't Look Like an Elephant

There is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard. He grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the center of his lawn, so he decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art. He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the huge boulder until it became a beautiful stone elephant. When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking. 

A neighbor asked, "How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of an elephant?" 

The man answered, "I just chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant!"

If you have anything in your life right now that doesn't look like love, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have anything in your life that doesn't look like compassion or mercy or empathy, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy in your heart, for God's sake, and the for the other person's sake, and for your sake, get rid of it! Let God chip everything out of your life that doesn't look like tenderheartedness.

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True
A Lie

Now I want to tell you a lie. Hate is an emotion we can't help. Hate is a feeling we cannot overcome. If we hate someone, it is because we just can't help ourselves. We're human. We have no choice but to hate. That is a lie. Unfortunately, it is a lie many people believe. They believe this lie in order to excuse their hatred. After all, if we can't help but hate, if hate is a feeling we simply cannot help, then hatred is never our fault, is it?  

But we can help it. Hatred is a choice. We choose to hate, just as we choose to love. Oh, I know, there are people out there who believe love isn't a choice, that love is primarily an emotion, a feeling, a stirring in the loins. These are the same people who stay married for six months, then divorce. These are the people who love the idea of love but seem unable to stay in it. Love is a matter of the will - something we decide to do. Love is a choice. 

Philip Gulley, For Everything a Season, Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, p. 204
We are judged by our actions, not our intentions. We may have a heart of gold, but then, so does a hard-boiled egg.

A Great Inheritance

One of the great preachers of our time is Dr. Fred Craddock. Craddock tells a story about vacationing with his wife one summer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One night they found a quiet little restaurant, where they looked forward to a private meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. Craddock leaned over and whispered to his wife, "I hope he doesn't come over here." He didn't want anyone intruding on their privacy. But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. "Where you folks from?" he asked in a friendly voice. 

"Oklahoma," Craddock answered. 

"Splendid state, I hear, although I've never been there," the stranger said."What do you do for a living?" 

"I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University," Craddock replied.
"Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I've got a story to tell you...
Fr. Jude Botelho:

This Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us of the many missionary journeys of the apostles and the growth of Christianity. It was not all easy but the gentle encouragement of Barnabas, and the personal witness of Paul was a great blessing for the early Christian communities and they grew in number. Every day of our life we are called to witness to the fact that Jesus is alive and in our midst. We are also called to be like Joseph, the real name of Barnabas. He was nicknamed Barnabas, ‘son of encouragement’. He encouraged Paul when he was just beginning his ministry and his encouragement built the early church. We need less of critics and more of encouragers to build the Christian community.

Man of La Mancha
Newspaper columnist Art Buchwald once wrote about a friend in New York City. Let’s call his friend Oscar. One day Art and Oscar were getting out of a taxi. As they did, Oscar said to the driver, “You did a superb job of driving.” The cabbie looked at him and said, “What are you? A wise guy?” “Not at all,” said Oscar. “I really mean it. I admire the way you moved about in traffic.” “Yeah, sure,” said the cabbie and he drove off. “What was that all about?” asked Art. “I’m trying to bring love back to New York,” Oscar replied. “How can you do that?” said Art. “Take that cabbie,” said Oscar. “I think I made his day. Let’s suppose he has 20 fares today. He’s going to be nice to those 20 people. They, in turn, will be kinder to other people.” Just then they passed a construction site. It was noon, and the workers were eating. Oscar walked up to a group of them and said, “That’s a magnificent job you men are doing. When will it be finished?” Oscar asked. “June”, grunted one of the hard-hats. “That’s great,” said Oscar. “It is going to be a splendid addition to the city.” As they continued their walk, Art said to Oscar, “Boy, I haven’t seen anyone like you since The Man of La Mancha.” “That’s okay,” said Oscar, “But when those men digest my words, they will be better for it.” “But even if they are better for it, you’re still only one man,” said Art. “And one person can’t change New York City.” “Yes he can,” said Oscar. “The big thing is not to get discouraged. Bringing back love to New York is not easy. But if I can get other people to join me in my campaign.” “Hey!” Art interrupted. “You just winked at a very ugly woman.” “I know I did,” said Oscar. “And if she is a schoolteacher, her class is in for a fantastic day.” Buchwald never tips his hand in the article. Some readers believe he was more serious than we might think.
Sunday Homilies; Mark Link, SJ

The Gospel continues this theme of newness that John spoke about and also gives us the key to letting this newness happen: “I give you a new commandment, love one another just as I have loved you.” Jesus then speaks of the newness he himself will be experiencing very soon. “Now has the Son of Man been glorified and in him God has been glorified.” We may be surprised but the hour of his glory is his being lifted up on the Cross and lifted in his Resurrection. Suffering and death are tied together and both are the moment of his glorification. This perhaps is one aspect of the newness that we are called to discover and live. The cross is not just the place of suffering; it is the place where we can see how much God loves us. In John’s Gospel Jesus being lifted on the cross is a revelation of the greatness of God’s love. Jesus’ task of making God’s love known did not end with his death. The story of Jesus among us is about to end as he is about to leave his disciples. But how is the world still to know and feel the greatness of God’s love? In today’s gospel we see Jesus telling his disciples that they have the task of making his love known. “A new commandment I give you, love as I have loved you.” This will be the hall-mark of every Christian, love! What is this newness that is promised by the Risen Lord? Perhaps it is making God’s love known; Perhaps it is not our loving and doing things for God but rather letting God love us and do things through us; Perhaps it is seeing suffering as an essential part of loving; Perhaps it is experiencing life through death; Perhaps it is saying ‘Thy will be done’ when we would rather have things differently; Perhaps it is love that is ever-forgiving; Perhaps it is love that is unconditional; Perhaps it is discovering through love, the God-who-dwells-with us; perhaps it is discovering the wonderful works of God through the power of his Spirit released through love.

Miracle of love
This story of love comes from 1976. A car accident tore open the head of 21 year old Chicago boy named Peter. His brain was damaged and he was thrown into a deep coma. Doctors told family and friends that he probably would not survive; even if he did, he would be in a comatose state. In the sad days ahead, Peter’s fiancĂ©e Linda spent all her free time in hospital. Night after night, for three and a half months she’d sit at Peter’s bedside, pat his cheek, rub his brow and talk to him. All the time Peter remained in a coma, unresponsive to Linda’s presence. Linda continued to speak lovingly to him, even though he gave no sign that he heard her. Then one night Linda saw Peter’s toe move. A few nights later she saw his eyelash flutter. This was all she needed. Against the advice of doctors, she quit her job and became his constant companion, spending hours massaging his arms and legs. Eventually she arranged to take him home; she spent all her savings on a swimming pool, hoping that the sun and the water would restore life to Peter’s motionless limbs. Then came the day when Peter spoke the first word since the accident. It was only a grunt but Linda understood it. Gradually with Linda’s help these grunts turned into words- clear words. Finally the day came when Peter was able to ask Linda’s father if he could marry her. Linda’s father said, “When you can walk down the aisle, Peter, she’ll be yours.” Two years later, Peter walked down the aisle of Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Chicago. He had to use a walker, but he was walking. Every television station in Chicago covered that wedding. Families with loved ones in comas called to ask their advice. Their love had made a miracle happen!
Mark Link

Quest for Fire  
In the early 1980s, an unusual film was playing in movie theatres across the nation. It was called Quest for Fire. Its French producer said it fulfilled a lifelong dream. He’d always dreamed of celebrating, in film, the discovery of fire.  For it was the discovery of fire 80,000 years ago that saved people on the planet Earth from total extinction. It was the discovery of fire that made it possible for them to make tools for survival and to protect themselves against the cold. Today, people on planet earth are beginning to worry that we are on the brink of global disaster. This time the danger comes not from something basic like the lack of fire but from something even more basic – the lack of human love, the kind of love Jesus preached. This makes us wonder. It makes us ask ourselves a question, a frightening question. Do we really love?
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

United with Christ we stand, separated we perish
J.C. Penny Stores is the largest chain of dry goods stores in the world. There are more than sixteen hundred of them in every state of the United States. Mr. J.C. Penny, the owner of these stores had a very serious mid-life crisis. He was beset with fatal worries. He was so harassed with worries that he couldn’t sleep, and he developed an extremely painful ailment called the shingles – a red rash and skin eruptions. His doctor put him to bed and warned him that he was a very sick man. A rigid treatment was prescribed. But nothing helped. He grew weaker day by day. He was physically and nervously broken, filled with despair. One night the doctor gave him a sedative, but its effects wore off soon, and he awoke with an overwhelming sense of his death. Getting out of his bed, he began to write farewell letters to his wife and to his son saying that he did not expect to see the dawn. When he awoke the next morning, he was surprised to find himself alive. Going downstairs, he heard singing in a little chapel where devotional exercises were held each morning. He heard them singing the beautiful hymn: ‘God will take care of you’. He went to the chapel and listened with a weary heart to the singing, the reading of the Scripture lesson and prayer. Suddenly, something happened which were beyond any explanation. He called it a miracle. In his own words, he said, “I felt as if I was instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm, brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I was transported from hell to paradise. I felt the power of God as I had never felt before. I realized then that I alone was responsible for all my troubles. I knew that God with His love was there to help me. From that day to this, my life has been free from worry. I am seventy-one years old, and the most dramatic and glorious twenty minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning: ‘God will take care of you.’”
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’

The demand of unconditional love
A soldier was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco. “Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I’ve a favour to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me.” “Sure” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.” “There is something you should know,” the son continued, “He was injured pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a landmine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go and I want him to come and stay with us.” “I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.” “No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.” “Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you are asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives, I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He will find a way to live on his own.” At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believe it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’