SIXTH SUNDAY 01″ EASTER – Keeping his commandments

INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR

Through the voice of the Church Christ says to us what he said to his apostles: ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’. We couldn’t possibly call over selves his disciples if we didn’t listen to his words and make an effort to live by them. [Pause]

Lord, your words are a lamp for our steps and a light for our path. Lord, have mercy. The sheep that belong to you listen to your voice. Christ have mercy.

Lord, to whom can we go but you? You alone have the words of eternal life. Lord, have mercy.

HEADING FOR READINGS

First Reading (Acts 815-8, 14-17). This recounts how the Good News was preached to the Samaritans. They received it with such joy and enthusiasm that it was like Pentecost all over again.

Second Reading (1 Peter 3:15-18). Christians should be able to defend their faith. If they suffer for their convictions, let them try to bear these sufferings with the patience of Christ.

Gospel (John 14:15-21) If we love Christ we will listen to his words and try to put them into practice in our lives.

HOMILY

Commandments, rules lists of Dos and Don’ts, are not exactly popular these days. They have been somewhat out of fashion ever since Vatican II. And yet, in a sense, the need for laws and rules would seem to be greater than ever before. We see how a football match quickly degenerates into a brawl if the rules are disregarded. We see continuing slaughter on the roads because people will not observe the rules. We see the havoc caused by violence when people decide to take the law into their own hands. ’

Not once, but several times, during the last supper Christ said these or similar words: ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’. What commandments was he talking about? Clearly he wasn’t talking about the Ten Commandments. If we take a look at the Gospels we find some clue as to the answer. There we will find certain Dos and Don ’ts he talked about. However, we must be clear about one thing. We are not talking about clearly defined rules and commandments, but about guidelines and signposts he left his followers. We are talking about a new spirit, a whole new set of values and attitudes towards God, towards other people, and towards life itself. It is the spirit above all matters. Without this any list of rules is practically meaningless, and will only result in producing a new breed of Pharisees.

Keeping this in mind, to look at some of the Dos and Don’ts he talked about would not only seem to be helpful, but even necessary. How can we call ourselves his followers if we do not try to do the things he urged his followers to do, and to avoid the things he urged them to avoid? Here, then, is a short list, beginning with the Don’ts. Let us imagine that Christ is speaking directly to us.

Don’ts

Do not return evil for evil. Nothing is achieved by retaliation, except to pile darkness upon darkness.

Do not judge your neighbour. No one knows all the facts in any particular case except God. Therefore, leave judgment to him.

Do not condemn your neighbours. This follows from the last. If you are not allowed pass judgment on your neighbours, neither are you allowed pass sentence on them.

Do not worry about food, and drink, and clothes, as if these were the most important things in life. Make it your first concern to live a life worthy of a child of God, and all the rest will fall into place.

Do not store up treasures for yourselves here on earth – money, property, goods, and so on. These are like chaff in the eyes of God, chaff that will be blown away in the first winds of judgment.

Do not look back once you have put your hand to the plough, that is, once you have decided to follow my way. Once you have made what you are sure is a right decision, go forward trusting in God. Leave all other options behind you. Do not even give them a second thought.

When times are rough, and friends can’t be found, do not give up hope. Keep on trusting in me and in the Father. Remember that you are loved. That should be enough for you.

Do’s

Let your light shine before people. If your deeds are good, do not hide them or apologise for them. Let other people see them. The light you shed around you will help others to find their way, and the Father will be glorified.

Love your enemies. Not just friends and cronies, because that’s easy and everybody does it. But to practice kindness towards those you do not like, or who may have been unkind to you, is hard. But if you do it, then you will be special – the very salt of the earth.

Give and you, will receive in abundance. I know that today the name of the game is: gimme, gimme, gimme. But this is just rank selfishness, and leads to the death of love.

Forgive everyone who sins against you. Forgive, not just in words, but from the heart. If you do, then you have nothing to fear in regard to your own sins. God has already forgiven them.

Clean the inside of cup and dish, and the outside will take take care of itself. By this I mean: take care that your mind and heart are clean and pure. In that way everything that comes from them – all your thoughts, words, and deeds – will also be clean and pure, like water coming from an unpolluted well.

Take this bread and eat it. Take this cup and drink it. Do this in memory of me. In the Eucharistic banquet you will find the nourishment you need to live as my follower.

Finally, the commandment that sums them all up: love one another, the way I have loved you. If you do this, then I will know that you love me too. Those who love me will be loved by my Father also. And I too will love them and show myself to them.

‘Forbidden fruits may taste sweet while we are eating it, but it always leaves us with a bitter taste in our mouth’. (Thomas Merton).

‘Our faith comes in moments, our vice is habitual’. (Emerson).

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

Human beings alone among all God’s creatures have the power to say no to his will. Let us pray to Christ our Brother for the wisdom and strength to do God’s will rather than our own. R. Lord, graciously hear us.

For the pope and the bishops: that they may help the People of God to obey God’s commandments not out of fear but out of love. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

For government leaders: that in all their decisions they may seek to do the will of God rather than their own will. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

For those who are suffering persecution because of their following of Christ. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

That we may never lose sight of Christ’s greatest commandment, the commandment to love one another. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

For local needs.

Let us pray:

Lord, help us at all times to listen to your words, and let your commandments guide our lives. Thus we will prove with our deeds that we truly love you. For you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

COMMUNION REFLECTION

Often we think we are good simply because

we are not conscious of doing any great evil.

But what about the things we fail to do?

Solzhenitsyn recalls, as he says, ‘with shame’,

an incident he witnessed at the front

when he was a captain in the Russian army.

‘One day I saw a sergeant of the secret police,

on horseback, using a whip on a Russian soldier

who had been captured serving in a German unit.

The man, naked from the waist up,

was staggering under the blows,

his body covered in blood.

Suddenly, he saw me and cried out:

“Mister Captain, save me!”

‘Any officer in any army in the world

should have put a stop to this torture,

but I was a coward.

I said nothing and I did nothing.

This picture has remained in my mind ever since’.

‘Be not simply good’, says Thoreau,

‘be good for something’.