“Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8.
Two Sundays ago, Jesus told us he is the Good Shepherd and just last Sunday, Jesus said he is the True Vine while we are the branches. As branches, Jesus went further to tell us that our goal is to bear fruits that will last. Today, Jesus gives us the essential key to bearing fruits as branches; Love for one another.
When as branches, we fail to love one another, when we do not accommodate each other as brothers and sisters created by the same God, when we cannot forgive and trust people regardless of their ethnic affinity, religion, denomination or political party, we become useless branches.
This is where today’s first reading comes in. Here is Peter, he is not just a branch of Christ but the leader of the entire Christian movement at the house of Cornelius. Who is Cornelius? A gentile, in other words, one who did not belong. For agreeing to go to the house of Cornelius which was a clear act of love, Peter opened the door for millions of Non-Jews and God confirmed this by pouring forth the Holy Spirit upon a people who were not even circumcised.
Imagine what would have happened if Peter discriminated against Cornelius simply based on his ethnic affinity and religion? Dear friends, we cannot bear fruits with hatred, discrimination and divisiveness in our hearts. In fact, our goal is not simply to convert people like marketers trying to sell a product, our goal is to love like Christ by showing up like Peter. God himself will do the rest.
The whole essence of being a Christian is becoming a mini-Christ so to say to our fellow brothers and sisters. Christianity is an incarnation, it is giving flesh and blood to the Jesus we read about in the Bible, it is acting just as Christ would act if he was right here today. And how did Christ act? “Greater love has no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.
Can people actually mistake me for Jesus? Do I love like Jesus? What exactly do I even mean when I utter the words, “I love you”? Do I mean it in the sense of one willing to die on the cross for another or in the sense of “as long as it convenient for me”? You see, too often, we confuse love with physical attraction and this leads to sins against the flesh.
It is very important that we make this clarification because our world today is at its lowest as far as morality is concerned. There is big difference between loving one another which is the summary of all the commandments and “making love” as the world defines it. St. John clearly explains to us in our second reading today the true meaning of love saying: “This is Love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.” 1st John 4:10.
In other words, the love that Jesus is recommending is kindness, care, concern and sacrifice shown towards people who sin against us; people who declare themselves to be our enemies; people who are owing us huge debts; people who have stolen from us; people who hurt us badly; people who simply deserve our hatred; in fact, people who cannot even repay us for our goodness.
This is Love. Humanity as a whole was at enmity with God yet God so loved the world. This is Love; that we die for our enemies. This is Love, not the “trade-by-barter” or “do-me-I-do-you” games we refer to as love. This is the Love; that we work to win souls, not to attract flesh to ourselves. This is the love that brings about a fullness of joy Jesus speaks about today not that which only leads to continuous heart-breaks.
So, where do we begin from? What practical steps can we adapt to love like Christ and actually bear fruits for God as true branches connected to the Vine?
1. Learn to see God in others especially those you consider to be strangers, outsiders, outcasts. The way to love people is to recognise God in everyone.
2. Forgive. Conquer hatred and prejudice in your heart by reflecting on the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for us even though we were God’s enemies.
3. Incarnate Christ to everyone you meet daily. Speak, act and think just as Christ would do. Do not wish evil for anyone. Be kind to your enemies.
4. Never look down on anyone. Pray and work for the conversion of sinners, yet bear in mind that love, not hate can win their hearts to God.
5. Recognise that God is a Father to us all and not only those who are good to us.
6. Change your definition of Love. Let Christ be always at the centre of your relationships. Treat your body as God’s temple; flee from the sins of the flesh.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to love just as you did that in loving, I may truly bear fruits for you. Amen.
*Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Sixth Sunday of Easter. Year B. Bible Study: Acts 10:25-48, 1 John 4:7-10 and John 15:9-17).*