Fifth Sunday in the Season of Easter: Love One Another

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We are still in the Season of Easter, the Season of celebrating Jesus’ victory over the powers of evil and death. At first, the Easter Sunday and weekday Scriptures told us the stories of Easter, of the risen Christ, spending time with his disciples, resurrecting their faith, encouraging them, forgiving them. Then the weekday Scriptures began telling us about Baptism and Eucharist.

The Sacraments which commit us to Christ and give us sustenance for our daily journey as Christians. Last Sunday’s Gospel focused on Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who accompanies us and cares for us on our Journey of Life as his disciples. Today’s Gospel looks at how we disciples of Jesus are to act, how we are to live in our world today.

A Story

One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the Mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward on the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within minutes a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around her a lesson.”

LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed into his famous sombrero saying: “Here is a ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 cents was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation. Mayor Laguardia put his faith into practice… he didn’t solve the problem hunger and poverty in New York City, but he did treat this one poor woman with respect and creative love.

They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love

II. A Personal Experience Story: I Am Loved By God (Jamaica, W.I. March 2006)

In my recent trip to our Passionist Parish in Kingston, Jamaica, I had a wonderful experience. Our Parish, St. Elizabeth Parish, is on the cusp of a very rugged Jamaican ghetto nicknamed “The Jungle”. Gangs, drugs, gunfire and a lot of nighttime loud music –it’s a tough neighborhood. There is a primary school on the property of our Parish, St. Elizabeth Primary School. There are 90 children in the school that includes kindergarten, first and second graders. Some of the children come from families at risk. These little kids know what a gunshot sounds like.

Each morning the school day begins with 30 minutes of prayer singing mostly. They gather in the schoolyard in their blue uniforms with white tops making a noisy, joyful choir singing God’s praises. The principal and teachers are dedicated to the kids. Their classrooms are simple and colorful, with collages and wall hangings… all created by the children.

At the end of each Morning Prayer session the principal leads the children in a beautiful proclamation which all of them repeat several times.

I am beautiful, I am special, I am unique, and I am loved by God.

I am beautiful, I am special, I am unique, and I am loved by God.

I am beautiful, I am special, I am unique, and I am loved by God.

If all of us could only believe that and if only we could treat each other like that.

Even those who are homeless, dirty, mean, tattooed, or otherwise poor even that neighbor that constantly gets on our nerves, or that toxic fellow employee, or that disagreeable family member. We can’t solve the problems of our society single handedly, and we can’t really change others…but we can certainly treat others with respect and kindness even when they don’t treat us that way.

Jesus said in today’s Gospel: This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love

As we continue with this Mass we will offer ourselves together with Jesus to our loving Father – the Father of all men and women, regardless of creed, color, or religion… behavior, economic class, or job… We are all brother and sisters of a loving Father.

As we continue with this Mass we will call to mind that Jesus gave his life for all people… so much does he love all of us and want to bring salvation and new life to all of us. As we come to our Communion let us invite Jesus into our hearts, realize his love for us – you and me –and then recall his words in today’s Gospel:

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This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Then we can pray, Jesus, help me to be a person who loves others, treats them with respect, is kind to them… even the difficult ones. Jesus, help us to be your disciples in our world. Help us to bring your gift of peace into our world – peace, “Shalom” – the gift the risen Christ promised to his disciples on Easter Sunday.

Let us pray

Response: Jesus, Good Shepherd, strengthen us. Where there is hatred, help us to bring your love…

Response: Jesus, Good Shepherd, strengthen us.

Where there is injury, help us to bring your pardon…

Response: Jesus, Good Shepherd, strengthen us.

Where there is doubt and cynicism help us to bring faith in your love for us…

V.

Response: Jesus, Good Shepherd, strengthen us. Where there is despair, help us to bring hope…

Response: Jesus, Good Shepherd, strengthen us.

Where there is darkness – and there is so much darkness in our world today – help us to bring light…

Response: Jesus, Good Shepherd, strengthen us.

Where there is sadness, help us to bring your joy.

Response: Jesus, Good Shepherd, strengthen us.

Amen

Nicolette Meade