Sunday, 6 May 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day, the sixth Sunday of the season of Easter, all of us are called to reflect on the one fundamental nature of our faith, and indeed, of Our God, in Whom we believe. And this fundamental nature is indeed so important that it is from which all of our faith came from, and by which, we have been saved. And what I have just spoken about, is love.

In the first reading today, we heard about St. Peter the Apostle, who went to visit the house of a Roman citizen named Cornelius, who together with his family greeted the Apostle and asked about the Christian faith. They wanted to believe in the Lord Jesus, and they listened to the teachings of the Apostle St. Peter, whom God also called to visit their house. They became believers, and received the Holy Spirit as St. Peter himself witnessed.

This is a very important event in the early Church, which was then divided between those who wanted to impose strict Jewish laws and discipline, and in fact, wanted the faith to be kept within the Jews only, as they believed that salvation was given only to the Jewish people, the direct descendants of Abraham, as God’s chosen people, and those who believe that the Lord did not restrict salvation from being given to the non-Jewish people, and in fact, as He had commanded, wanted everyone to be saved, and to follow Him.

And the Lord showed St. Peter, and the other Church fathers and elders, how He desired for the salvation of all mankind, for all of the race of men have been chosen by God, out of His love for all of them. When He showed a vision to St. Peter earlier prior to his visit to the house of Cornelius, in which a multitude of unclean animals according to the Jewish tradition was presented to St. Peter as food as commanded by God, and upon his refusal, God said to him that ‘what God has decreed to be clean, you cannot say to be unclean.’

This is related to what we heard in the Gospel today, as the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “I shall not call you servants anymore, but I shall call you friends.” Through this, God revealed to us His true intention and nature. In the Old Testament, God was always portrayed as a mighty and angry God, Who is always ready to punish His people whenever they erred or turned against Him. But in reality, He did all of those because He loved His people.

Otherwise, why would God love those people who have rebelled against Him, disobeyed His commandments and laws? God did not intend for all of us to suffer difficulty and hardships in this world, as if we read the Book of Genesis, we should see how God intended for us all to live in perfect bliss and harmony, in eternal happiness with Him, as God had intended with Adam and Eve, our first ancestors in the Gardens of Eden.

Alas, our ancestors disobeyed God’s commandments and followed the lies of Satan instead, believing more in his sweet false promises rather than to obey the Lord, Who has given us His love so much, that He gave us everything in this world to be our own. Instead, we were banished out of Eden into the suffering of this world, and we came under the thralldom and tyranny of sin.

God could have destroyed us right there and then, and He could have crushed us, as He Who created us surely could also destroy us with the mere projection of His will. However, that was not what God has done. Instead, He called us to return to Him, beginning with the sons and daughters of Abraham, His faithful servant, and then by giving them His Law and commandments, the Ten Commandments.

But the people continued to sin and refused to obey Him, and instead, worshipping pagan gods and idols, performing what were wicked in God’s sight, by their unjust treatment of their peers and fellow men, they disgusted God and made Him to be angry at them. But that was not the true nature of God. God was angry at His people, because of their disobedience and their sins. It was these wickedness that God was angry with them for, but not because of themselves as human beings.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that God ultimately still loves us all, even though we are sinful and wicked in our deeds. However, it is these sins and wickedness which have separated us from Him, and which then prompted God to do what He had to do, in order to save us all from certain destruction because of those unrepented and unsettled sins.

And in this day’s Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus made it clear what He would do in order to fulfil the promise He has made to us mankind, that He would love us again and reconcile us to Himself, freeing us from our sins. He has considered us to be His friends, as those who are truly dear to Him. And what would Jesus do to His friends? In another Gospel passage, He said, “There is no greater love for someone than for him to lay down his life for a friend.”

That is exactly what the Lord has done, by voluntarily accepting the cross, as a punishment for all of our sins, the whole sum of the consequences that should have fallen unto us mankind, and yet, God willingly took all of them upon His own shoulders, and bore them on the way to Calvary, and He was crucified on it. He endured an unimaginably immense pain and sorrow, suffering and torture on the Cross, but He bore it all patiently.

And that is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Cross is the concrete and undeniable proof of God’s ultimate love for each and every one of us. God has loved us so much, that He did not only give us His only Son, through Whom He created us, the Word of God, made incarnate into the flesh of Man, but, in fact, through His singular act of perfect love and completely selfless sacrifice, He gave Himself up and His life, so that, by that loving act, He redeemed us all from our sins.

Now we have seen just how wonderful and amazing God’s love for us is. He has loved us all from the very beginning, and He wants to continue to love us. But unfortunately, many of us have not loved Him in the same manner. This is what God wants from each one of us, that we all love Him just as He has loved us first, and then we ought to show this love in our action and interactions with one another. That is the true essence of God’s commandments and Law.

Yet, how many of us truly love God in our hearts? How many of us put God as the priority in our lives? Instead of loving Him, we spent far more time worrying about our worldly concerns, about our career, our possessions and material wealth, about our relationships and concerns of the flesh? How many of us only remember God when we have need and we demand that God do something for us?

If we truly love God, then we cannot act in this manner. True love for God does not mean for us to just superficially be faithful to Him. Many of those Pharisees who obeyed the numerous rules and regulations of the Jewish customs seemed to be obedient to the Lord, but they did not love Him, for their love was for worldly power and influence, for their own satisfaction and pleasure, and not God.

How about us? Haven’t many of us been doing the same thus far? We are so busy and so preoccupied trying to accumulate for ourselves all these things, that we end up forgetting about God and about our obligation to Him. And then, we have also often forgotten about our obligation, to show the same love to our fellow brethren. Instead, we end up backstabbing others, being angry and jealous at others, desiring what others have and what we do not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, all of us are called to be true agents of love, that is the pure love which God has shown us, unconditional and selfless. Then, what is it that we need to do? We should begin to practice genuine love in our daily lives, by showing care and concern to those who are around us, forgiving those who have wronged us, and helping even strangers who need our help.

Let us not be prejudiced on others based on racial or national background, just as God Himself has not prejudiced against us, and love us all equally all the same. He has shown this to St. Peter, and by calling all the Gentiles, all the peoples from every nation, He wants to show us that He loves all mankind equally, and we too, should do the same with our own lives and in how we interact with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, all children of the one and same God.

By doing these things, then we will grow stronger in our love for God, as we truly now internalise and appreciate the same love which He Himself has given us from the cross, and which we imitate in our own actions to one another. In this way then, we will grow ever more faithful to Him, and draw ever closer to Him. Let us all pray then, brothers and sisters, that God will always be with us, loving is as He has always done, and may He guide us in our lives, that we may love Him all the more, with each and every passing day. God bless us all. Amen.