Readings: Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66, Response: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.; 1 Peter 3: 15-18; Gospel: John 14: 15-21
Today marks the 63rd day of our quarantine, and the 36th day of the Easter Season. In 15 days, on June 1, we return to ordinary time. We pray that in the final two weeks of Easter we may pray and discern more deeply to prepare for our “return” into “ordinary time.”
Today’s Gospel gives us the tools to prepare for this, that we may be “armed” when the “ordinary” begins. It gives us the call to love, the promise of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of fidelity and completion.
The Gospel opens with a clear definition of love. In the Gospel of John, love is obedience: keeping the commandments, doing what God wants us do. We know too that Jesus’ commandments are summed up in this: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10: 27)
He further deepens this: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 13)
We draw two points for reflection from this. One is from St. Ignatius of Loyola, who prescribed that “love is best expressed in deeds.” Thus, to love is to serve others and God. The second is the love for neighbor in the passage from Luke.
After this passage from Luke is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus brings the young man to define who his neighbor is.
The late Fr. Howard Gray, SJ, loved this parable and left instructions that this was the Gospel to be proclaimed in his funeral. On our eight-day retreat with him in the early 1990s, he gave this as one of our points for prayer.
I was struck by what he gave as one of the main points for reflection from the parable, how the Good Samaritan built a network of compassion to help the poor victim of the robbers.
I could almost hear and picture Gray giving a talk or a homily on this, set within the context of our present global crisis. We need to build a network of compassion to care for the “victims” of the crisis.
It is interesting how Gray described the network of compassion the Good Samaritan built: the animal that carried the victim, the innkeeper to whom the victim’s care was entrusted, the resources he mobilized, from the oil and wine he used as emergency treatment to the money he spent in the inn, including what he gave to the innkeeper, and, of course, the Good Samaritan himself.
This parable is about us now. It is a very concrete expression of the Risen Lord’s command: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
What our world needs now is for us, together, to build a network of compassion for the millions who suffer “by the roadside,” victims of this pandemic who do not have any source of income and can hardly provide their families with food and other basic necessities.
It is a time to build a network of compassion, a society that shares with and cares for those most in need. We will succeed.
If we do this, “The Risen Lord will ask the Father” and he will assist us with his Spirit who will guide and sustain us.
Plus, the Lord assures us of his loving providential presence: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
Now is a time of crisis, but in every human crisis, God’s miracle is always possible. All miracles come in the midst of crisis.
This pandemic may still bring the greatest miracle of a “new heaven and a new earth”—a new world filled with love. —CONTRIBTUED