Monday, May 4, 2015

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter

Homily for the
5th Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2015
1 John 3: 18-24
Ursulines, Willow Dr., New Rochelle

“Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” (1 John 3: 18).

St. John hits constantly on the theme of loving one another in practice, not only in words:  walking the walk and not just talking the talk, as they say today.  Don Bosco tells us Salesians that the young must see that we love them, beyond what’s in our hearts or our words.

St. John the Evangelist
John links our actions and our keeping the commandments with “the truth.”  We think of truth as something intellectual or dogmatic:  the truths of the faith, or “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”  But John speaks of “belonging to the truth” thru our loving “in deed” and acting according to what’s in our hearts.  We can understand that our truth—our integrity—depends upon a consistency between our thoughts and our deeds, between our beliefs and our actions.  As John says in the next chapter, anyone who says she loves God but hates her sister or brother is a liar (4:20).

A long biblical tradition also links truth with the divine law, or in terms of today’s readings, with the commandments.  God’s word is truth.  Christian philosophers of a later age also identify the natural law with truth.  To live the truth, then, means to conform our behavior with God’s word, whether that’s the word revealed on Mt. Sinai or in the Sermon on the Mount, or the word found in nature.  To love God “in deed and truth,” we speak and act as he wishes, in accord with our status as creatures made in his image, as sisters and brothers of one another because God is our common Father and all of us are bound together by our Lord Jesus.

John speaks of “whatever our hearts condemn” (3:20).  When we look into our hearts, of course, we discover our infidelities—in both desires and actions—and by God’s grace we’re moved to repent, to condemn our sins and our unworthy, unlawful temptations and desires and the actions to which they give birth.  “God is greater than our hearts” (3:20) and conquers our sins, absolves us, purifies us, and keeps us as his beloved children.

When John adds, “and knows everything,” don’t we hear an echo of Peter’s encounter with the Risen One at the lakeshore?  “Peter, do you love me?”  “Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love you” (John 21:17).  This is Peter the sinner speaking.  Yes, even when we love the Lord intensely, as Peter did, in our weakness we sin.  We trust the Lord to know our hearts—our fears, our anxieties, our frustrations, our flightiness, our uncertainties, our waverings—and our fundamental love and commitment, like Peter’s.  We trust that God not only knows our hearts but also can make them whole, as he did Peter’s.

“We have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask” (3:21-22).  Confidence means faith, trust.  The confidence we have is in God’s unfailing love.  “Whatever we ask”—in the gospel context, this seems to mean asking for mercy, forgiveness, redemption, the grace to live a Christian life, to live in “the Spirit he gave us” (3:24).  For Jesus tells us to ask for the Spirit, God’s great gift that brings us pardon, unites us to the Father and the Son, and keeps us in love with the One who made us and saves us.

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