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Scripture Study: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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By Marc Massery (May 4, 2018)
To find the readings for this weekend, click here

Sunday, May 6 — Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
• Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
• 1 Jn 4:7-10
• Jn 15:9-17


Many people despise Christianity, accusing it of being a religion of "no." But criticizing Christians because they follow God's laws is like criticizing musicians in a symphony because they have to play what's written on their sheet music.

Rules for the sake of rules would, indeed, enslave us. But rules that serve a higher purpose give us the freedom to enjoy that which they serve.

In the Gospel reading this weekend, Jesus says, "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 … I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete" (Jn 15:10-11). Just as following sheet music helps musicians play beautiful music, following the Commandments allows us to live in a loving relationship with God, which enables us to become our best selves.

In fact, the love of God sheds light on any rule that, taken by itself, would simply be a burden. The Lord does not ask us to follow His Commandments to aggravate us. As it says in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, "[His] holy will … is Love and Mercy itself" (950).

But the New Covenant condenses all the laws of the Old Covenant into one Commandment. Jesus says, "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you" (Jn 15:12). If we do everything out of love, we will not have to obsess over rules. Of course, this new law does not give us license to break God's law. It merely means that we will already know God's precepts within our hearts.

But it might take a lifetime to reach the point where we do not need to consciously follow the Ten Commandments. Since we love imperfectly, rules help us discern what God asks of us.

Eventually, as we grow in love, we will reach the point where the Commandments do not seem burdensome at all. In fact, if we learned to love as God loves, we would not dream of breaking a Commandment.

To continue with the analogy, musicians playing in a symphony do not want to play wrong notes. They realize that wrong notes, in the context of a symphony, sound awful. Good musicians intend to follow the sheet music because they see the bigger picture — they know the beauty revealed through playing the prescribed music.

The Ten Commandments, though, as important as they are, fall short of enabling us to live as our best selves in full communion with the Lord. These Commandments, though quite important, merely tell us what God's will is not — thou shalt not murder, not steal, not commit adultery, etc. But thanks to the New Covenant, we can discern precisely what God's will is, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The first reading says, "While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word … [they were] speaking in tongues and glorifying God" (Acts 10:45-46).

Sometimes we have to choose between two good things — whether or not to date a particular person, whether to take this job or that, whether to get married or join religious life. The Ten Commandments cannot give us much guidance in many of the most critical decisions we need to make. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit provides us with the power to discern God's will in every situation, big and small. We do not necessarily have to break one of the Ten Commandments to deviate from God's will.

For example, imagine if St. Pope John Paul II decided to get married instead of following God's call to the priesthood. He would not have broken any of the Ten Commandments by getting married. But he would have been ignoring God's will, the voice of the Holy Spirit within his heart. Thankfully, he recognized that following God's will would give him the greatest fulfillment and more importantly, bring the most glory to God. And the Lord blessed him for his willingness to give up his life for the sake of the Gospel.

Though following God's will ultimately enables us to experience His love and joy, it will cost us much. When we decide to follow the Lord's will for us, we inevitably choose to give up what is not His will for us — even if the thing we desire is itself a good thing. Even when we recognize that His plans will bring Him glory and lead us to joy, detaching from our own will remains a struggle.

Even Christ lamented the pain that following God's will required. He knew that the Cross would redeem the world, put an end to death, and lead us into eternal glory. But He also understood that the Cross would require Him to suffer more than all humanity has ever endured. He had to give up His own will, His desire to avoid pain — His very life — for the sake of fulfilling God's will.

In the Gospel, He says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13). Christ does not mean that we need to die a bodily death to prove our love to another. We have the chance to lay down our lives for our friends every time we choose to do God's will — every time we decide to please the Lord over pleasing ourselves, or even placating our family and friends.

The Lord often calls us to give up some pleasure, some person, or some plan to which we have become inordinately attached for the sake of doing what He desires us to do. Great love requires us to lay down our lives, to give up everything not in accord with God's will — even if it hurts. But we have a reason to rejoice in our sufferings. Any sacrifice made out of love, led by the Holy Spirit, allows us a share in Christ's suffering. In the end, when He reveals His glory, we will be able to rejoice and experience the joy of being part of God's heavenly symphony.

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Sister M. Leonarda - May 4, 2018

Amen! How beautiful ! Let the music "live" on forever and continue in our Eternal Home in Heaven....