6th SUNDAY OF EASTER (Cycle B)

Readings:
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1-4
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: We are Children Begotten by the Love of God
The theme of today's readings is the love of God that has begotten us as the children of a divine Father and our obligation to love each other: to love our brothers and sisters in covenant with us as well as those in the human family of Adam.  Love is not an inherited trait.  Love must be learned and experienced, developed and fostered.  Love begins on the human level in infancy and grows through our human relationships.  It is only after we have experienced human love that we can respond to the religious dimension of love in love of God and receive the calling to extend God's love to others.

We see God's love in action in the First Reading where God pours out His Spirit upon the Gentile Romans as they listen to the Word of God preached by St. Pater.  They receive the same gift of love as the devout Jewish disciples of Jesus when they were praying in the Upper Room at Pentecost.  This is the glorious work of God that we sing about in today's Psalm.  God embraces all who come to him through faith in His Son through Christian baptism no matter their ethnic origin or age or gender.  In the sacrament of Christian baptism, the Church is His vehicle to beget children by the love of God (Second Reading).  But the Scriptures also reveal that this gift of love brings with it both a command and a duty.  We are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us (Gospel Reading), and we have a duty to offer the sacrifice of being willing to lay down our lives for others just as Jesus laid down His life for us.  The duty of serving Christ in love is the witness that leads to works of righteousness that is "fruit that will remain" (Gospel Reading) in the revelation of God to the nations (Psalm Reading).

The First Reading Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 ~ Peter Baptizes the Household of the Roman Centurion Cornelius in the Name of Jesus
25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and falling at his feet, paid him homage.  26 Peter, however, raised him up, saying, "Get up.  I myself am also a human being." [..]  34 Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  35 Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.  [..].  44 While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.  45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, 46 for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.  Then Peter responded, 47 "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people. Who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?"  48 He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Then they invited him to stay for a few days.

The Roman centurion Cornelius is filled with gratitude that Peter has consented to come and speak to those who are assembled at his house.  That a Roman conqueror should fall to his knees in front of a Jewish vassal is shocking.  Once again we see Peter's humility in telling the Roman to rise up.  He is obedient to Jesus' teaching on the night of the Last Supper in John 13:12-17.  Peter is Christ's servant sent to serve others.

34 Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality ...
This is Peter's fifth kerygmatic address and his homily to the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius's house in verses 36-43 has the same basic outline as his other proclamations of Jesus as Lord and Savior (see Acts 2:14-39; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32 and 10:34-43) in which Peter proclaims

  1. Jesus was sent by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to be Lord and Messiah.
  2. He did what was good and healed those in need of physical and spiritual healing.
  3. He was put to death by men but arose from the dead on the third day.
  4. He appeared to His disciples and commissioned them to preach in His name.
  5. Whoever believes in Him and is baptized in His name will receive forgiveness of sins.

St. Peter has come to understand that God's gift of salvation is universal, as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah (Is 66:18).

44 While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, 46 for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.  Then Peter responded, 47 "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people. Who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?" 
God the Holy Spirit baptized the group of Gentile believers in the same way He baptized the Jewish believers in the Upper Room on Pentecost Sunday.  The sign of their spiritual baptism was that they began to speak "in tongues", a manifestation of the Spirit in which a believer speaks to God in a language other than his own.  It is a manifestation that first occurred at Pentecost when the Apostles began preaching the Gospel in a number of different languages (Acts 2:4-11; also see 19:6 and 1 Cor 14).  For Peter, his phenomenon is a sign that the Gospel message of salvation is a universal message to be preached to all nations as Jesus told the Apostles before His Ascension (see Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15-17).

48 He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Then they invited him to stay for a few days.
Peter ordered that the entire assembly of Gentiles be baptized immediately.  Since Cornelius' family and friends were present, we assume that children and infants were baptized.  Infant baptism has been part of the ritual of Christian baptism since the beginning of the Church (CCC 403, 1231, 1233, 1250-52, 1282, 1290).

Responsorial Psalm 98:1-4 ~ A Revelation to the Nations
The response is: "The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power" or "Alleluia."
1 Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; his right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm.
Response:
2 The LORD has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.  3 He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel.
Response:
4 All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.  Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; break into song; sing praise.
Response:

This psalm is a hymn extolling God's victories and the revelation of His saving power to the nations of the earth.  Not only has God demonstrated his mercy and faithfulness towards Israel, but His mighty deeds on behalf of Israel are a witness to the other nations of the world of both His power and His mercy; and therefore, the psalmist calls upon the whole earth to sing a joyful song praising the Lord God of Israel. 

The Second Reading 1 John 4:7-10 ~ Love Defines Children of God
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  8 Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  9 In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

The love of God that Christians share with others testifies to the nature of God and His presence in our lives.  The love of God that we share with others also demonstrates our true nature as a child of God who is Himself the true definition of love.  The revelation of the nature of God's love is revealed to the world in the gift of salvation through the willing sacrifice of His Son.  It is this gift of divine love that allows us to be delivered from our sins and to have a share in His divine life through our re-birth in Christian baptism when we become children begotten of the God the Father. 

In return He only asks that we share the same love He has shown us to others.  He calls us to love others as Christ has loved us with a self-sacrificial and authentic love that is proof to the world that we know God and have life through Him.

The Gospel of John 15:9-17 ~ The Command to Love One Another
9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.  10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.  11 I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.  12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.  14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.  15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his maser is doing.  I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.  16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  17 This I command you: love one another.

Our reading is from Jesus' last homily to His disciples at the end of the Last Supper.  In John 15:7 Jesus promises to honor whatever request we make in His name.  Most people stop with that statement and then complain that what they have asked in prayer has not been fulfilled, but Jesus has placed a condition on our requests in verses 9-17.  We must remain in Him and keep the commandments.  Jesus says He will give whatever we ask, if we abide or remain in Him.  The way we remain in Him is to keep His commandments which include everything He has taught including His teaching that we must conform to God the Father's will in our lives just as Jesus is perfectly in accord with the Father's will.  You see that accord when Jesus prays to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, which John does not repeat in his Gospel but which is found in the Synoptic Gospels.  In Matthew 26:39 Jesus prays: My Father [...] if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.   Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.

Therefore, when we pray, what must we take into account that our petitions must not be contrary to the teachings of Christ and His Church, and our petitions must be obedient to the will of God for our lives.  The Catechism teaches: "The prayer of faith consists not only in saying 'Lord, Lord,' but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father.  Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan."

11 I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.  12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. 
This the not first time Jesus has given this commandment to love when He said "love (agapate, meaning "you love") one another as I love you."  Jesus is repeating His command found in John 13:34: I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  The use of the present subjunctive tense suggests that this love that disciples have for one another should be a continuous, lifelong love and their love is how they will be known as His disciples (Jn 13:35).

In verse 13 Jesus says that He will lay down His life; He will sacrifice Himself for them.  The significance of Jesus' statement is that Christian love does not only mean the willingness to die for one's friends or one's faith, but because this love stems from Christ, this love is a love of self-sacrifice. The laying down of Jesus' life is spoken of as a command of the Father in John 10:18 and 14:31.  This is another example of living a life of love as a commandment for the New Covenant faithful.  It is also an example and a model of the expression of the intensity of the love Christ is calling us to give. Jesus sacrifice is not only a model and example but it is also the source of our love for others.  St. John writes in 1John 3:16-19: This is the proof of love, that he laid down his life for us, and we too ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone is well off in worldly possessions and sees his brother in need but closes his heart to him, how can the love of God be remaining in Him?  Children, our love must be not just words or mere talk, but something active and genuine.  This will be the proof that we belong to the truth, and it will convince us in his presence...

It is easy to love the loveable but it is sometime very hard to love those who behave badly or reject our love.  In that case it is easier to give love when you remember that Christ loved that person enough to die for him.  If you love Christ, through Christ you can also love him.

14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.  15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his maser is doing.  I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 
There is nothing derogatory in Jesus describing the disciples as His "slaves/servants."  The prophets of the Old Testament were "slaves/servants" of Yahweh; see Deuteronomy 34:5 for Moses; Joshua 24:29 for Joshua; and Psalms 89:20 for David.  But this change in status from "servant" to "friends" must be viewed as significant.  Biblical scholars have several interpretations of these verses. 

16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  17 This I command you: love one another.
The Old Covenant Church was established through the descendants of the 12 sons of Israel who were the physical fathers of God's Covenant people.  Jesus establishes the New Covenant Church through 12 spiritual fathers.  Later the number of 11 Apostles who remained after Judas defection will be expanded to 12 again with the election of Matthias after the Lord's Ascension in Acts 1:20-26.  This election, ordered by St. Peter, establishes the practice of selecting successors of Christ's ministers in the hierarchy of the Church.

This is the third time since chapter 13 that Jesus has given the command "to love" (see 13:34; 15:12).  In verse 10, Jesus told the Apostles that they would remain in His love if they kept His commandments.  Now He has told them 3 times that the basic commandment, from which all other commandments come, is love.  It is a love that is commanded to produce more love.  Notice how the commandment "to love" has developed from verse 9 and expand in verses 12 and 17.  Look for the progression of love:

  1. The Father loves Jesus
  2. Jesus loves His disciples
  3. The disciples must love one another.

John revisits this theme in 1 John 4:11-12 where he writes: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.  No one has ever seen God.  Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. 

Catechism References:
Acts 10:35 (CCC 761) 10:48 (CCC 1226)
1 John 4 (CCC 2822); 4:8 (CCC 214, 221, 733, 1604); 4:9 (CCC 458, 516); 4:10 (CCC 457, 604, 614, 620, 1428)
John 15:9-10 (CCC 1824); 15:9 (CCC 1823); 15:12 (CCC 459, 1823, 1970, 2074); 15:13 (CCC 363, 609, 614); 15:15 (CCC 1972, 2347); 15:16-17 (CCC 2745); 15:16 (CCC 434, 737, 2615, 2815)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015