5th Week of Easter, Friday, May 7
Acts 15:22-31 / John 15:12-17
Jesus talks more about love; "No one has greater love than this. "
A municipal park in Chicago is called Milton Olive Park. The story behind the park's name deserves to be told over and over.
Milton Olive was a 19-year-old soldier who fought in Vietnam. In October 1965, he threw himself on a live hand grenade and saved the lives of four comrades. In awarding him the Medal of Honour posthumously, President Lyndon Johnson said: "In that incredible, brief moment . . . in which he decided to die, he put others first and himself last. I have always believed that to be the hardest but the highest decision that any man is called upon to make."
How willing are we to put others before ourselves, even in situations that require far less courage than the one Milton Olive faced? "A hero sacrifices what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Anonymous
The Council of Jerusalem was a great help in the understanding of what the Church is and what it should be. It brought out the four essential qualities of the Church. The Church is ONE. There is no discrimination on the grounds of Jewish or Gentile origin or culture. There is unity in multiplicity. The Church is HOLY. The holiness does not come from bearing the yoke of the law. Holiness comes through the grace of Christ and is the of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is living the truth in charity. The Church is APOSTOLIC. It accepts the faith of the Apostles. It has received from Christ the deposit of faith and the Spirit goes on leading them into all the truth. The elders and apostles prepared a document containing the decisions of the Council and sent it to the Church of Antioch by "apostolic delegates", Barsabbas and Silas. The Church is CATHOLIC, universal in space and time. It is for every language, for every culture, for every race and nation.
Fraternal love among Christians, but also love of all people for one another, without boundaries or reservations is inseparable from friendship with God. Both loves are in fact one. For Christians, human relations have a religious content and express a religious relation. For sure, we can and must love God in himself. But we experience God when our love, like his, is liberal and without calculation, oriented towards people in their otherness. Such a love converts us, that is, turns us to God and to others, overcomes selfishness, forgives and shares. It recognizes the sensitivities and respects the backgrounds of others; see today’s first reading, Jews and Christians recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is Christian love in action.
In the secular world, to be authorised to do something has this meaning of being genuine and proper. So, we will come across phrases like authorised dealer, authorised distributor, authorised seller, authorised workshop, etc. The word "authority" carries a lot of weight behind it, and it also carries the approval, recognition, endorsement and permission of the organisation.
On the other hand, to act without authority would mean defiance, opposition, disobedience and dissent. In the 1st reading, the letter that the apostles and elders sent to the churches in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia has these words: We heard that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us, ...So, acting without authority would cause disturbance, annoyance, confusion and division even.
In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: This is my commandment - love one another as I have loved you. It is a commandment from our Lord Jesus, and in a way it also carries the power of an authorisation. When we carry out that commandment of love, we have the power of Jesus with us as we proclaim His love.
Through us, the power of the love of Jesus will flow to others and it is the love of Jesus that will bring about unity, peace and joy. Let us go forth and carry out that commandment of love, and with that let us also know that we carry the authority and power of the love of Jesus.
Lord our God, love is your name and you have revealed all its depth when you sent your only Son into the world and let him be the sacrifice that took our sins away. Through Jesus, who calls us his friends, make our love as strong as life and death; let it always have the last word in us and be given for free, like yours. May we always remain in your love and love one another as Jesus has loved us, he who is our Lord, for ever and ever. Amen