Sunday, 13 May 2012

6th Sunday of Easter, Year B, Shaftesbury

Jn 15:9-17; 1 Jn 4:7-10
Most of us have had the experience of finding out something new about someone, and being surprised.
Sometimes we can come across an act of generosity or kindness in someone, a hidden act that others don’t see, that we hadn’t seen ourselves, and we realise that there was more to the person than we had bothered to notice before.
And it can change how we then THINK about that person in all kinds of other things, and change how we ACT to towards that person too.

I want to suggest to you a parallel in how we do, or do not, know God, and know Him in Jesus Christ. Because seeing how God has acted in Christ should change how we THINK about Him, and how we ACT towards Him, and towards others.
This, I’d like to point out to you, was the experience of His apostles after the Resurrection.
They had been with Jesus for 3 years, but He had somehow not gotten through to them. The Gospels record the Twelve as petty, rivals with one another as to who was the greatest (Lk 9:46), small-minded in turning away the children who came to see Him(Mt 19:14), and repeatedly “slow to understand”. In particular, they “did not understand”(Mk 9:32) His prophecies that He would be crucified and rise from the dead.

However, after Jesus rose from the dead everything changed. The Church gives us, throughout the Easter season, readings like our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It describes how the Twelve behaved AFTER the Resurrection, going out and converting the nations, full of wisdom and teaching, going about doing good. They were changed by the action of the Holy Spirit. But, and this is my point today, they were changed by what they KNEW of God –what the Resurrection had shown them.

The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was an act unparalleled even amid all the miracles in history of the God’s actions with His Chosen People the Jews. It was an act that showed that Jesus was more than just a prophet. It made sense of all kinds of things that He had said before His death but His disciples had not then understood, but that they LOOKED BACK and understood after He rose.

Let us consider the words we heard read in today’s gospel text, the words where Jesus said, “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”(Jn 15:13)
When Jesus died and rose from the dead, and fulfilled His prophecies of doing just that, His disciples came to realise a great many things about Him:
Realised He was the long-awaited and prophesied Messiah;
Realised He was the Only Son of God;
But, also, they came to realise something MORE about the nature of who GOD is in HIMSELF, namely, as we heard in our second reading, that “God is love”(1 Jn 4:8).
They realised not only that Jesus had a love for us such that there is “no greater love”, but also that this is the love in God Himself, in the three Triune persons, such as Jesus spoke of the Father loving Him (Jn 15:9) and Him the Father.

We, of course, have heard this so many times that it can easily mean almost nothing to us, these can be words that pass right past us. But it was new to them. And it changed them. Changed not only what they knew, but as I said, changed how they behaved, so that, as we hard St John say in our second reading, “Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love”(1 Jn 4:8).

In as much as we fail to love, we show that we have not truly known Him.
But, if we look to see Him more, to KNOW Him more, then, to return to my opening illustration, just as learning something new about someone can change how we think and act towards them, if we truly ponder what Jesus has DONE for us we can come to know and love Him in a deeper way.
“A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”(Jn 15:13)

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