Lanie LeBlanc OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
reflection can be here!)
6th Sunday of Easter
Jesus tells us in today's Gospel , "This I command you:
love one another." He doesn't give us just a suggestion. He
doesn't say it will be easy because "love makes the world go
Love is truly wonderful, but that command is just not so
easy to fulfill. I think the universal and unconditional
parts of loving are difficult because we are not perfect and
neither are those whom we are commanded to love. We all know
that sometimes it is difficult to love even those we already
Perhaps it would be a good idea to think about this
command more concretely. What is deep down in the
relationship between people who do love one another, not
just those who are romantically involved? I think our other
two readings give us some clues.
In the first reading, there is clearly admiration
(perhaps a bit close to adoration) of Peter by Cornelius,
but Peter opts for equality instead. A view of equality is a
key ingredient in being able to love as God wants us to
love. We are all human beings, with some faults and without
other faults, with some gifts and without other gifts.
In the second reading, we are told that love is about God
loving us, with the implicit idea of loving each of us
"first". In other words, we can love because God showed each
of us unconditional love by sending Jesus to redeem us. It
seems that any love, therefore, must really flow from the
love of God, both emanating from God and by us loving God.
Although that sounds a bit vague, it amounts to treating
others as equals, wanting the best for them, and being
engaged in making that happen. Setting those parameters
makes this command a bit easier for me, though not
automatic. It makes it possible... for nothing is impossible
for God from whom all love flows!
Sixth Sunday of Easter May 9 2021
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Responsorial Psalm 98;
1st John 4:7-10; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; John 15:9-17
It must have been a huge shock to Peter. Since the day he
was born he had been schooled in Law of Moses with its
dietary laws and strict rituals. His circle of friends, his
work companions, and all the members of his village
practiced those laws and regulations. After the death and
resurrection of Jesus Peter had a dream. In that dream,
Peter saw a huge tablecloth descending from the sky, loaded
with what the Mosaic Law and tradition had considered
unclean foods. Three times he rejected the direction to take
and eat. Ultimately, an insistent voice convinced him what
God had made was not unclean. This dream came to him as
large segments of the Jewish community were being baptized.
The message, the ministry and life of Jesus expanded the Law
of Moses. The history of the Hebrew people was a constant
reminder that God had chosen this people. They thought they
were chosen at the whim of God. The truth of Jesus was that
these people were chosen to be the instrument of God’s love
for all persons.
The story in the first reading is about Cornelius. He was
a centurion in the Roman military. That military was the
enforcement arm of the occupying forces. That military
oversaw the execution of Jesus. Their tactics as occupiers
was to frighten the subject peoples into compliance with
Roman law and its taxation. They were hated and feared and
not welcome in the land.
Here is a story of two radically opposed cultures. Peter
was an observing Jew. Cornelius was an occupier, charged
with maintaining order according to the Roman law. How could
these opposites ever be attracted to each other?
Peter had seen the commitment of Jesus to the people. He
healed, he preached mercy and compassion. He went willingly
to the Cross. That latter act of Jesus became understood as
an act of love. He was willing to lay down his life for his
friends. Cornelius was known to be a righteous man. He
believed that events and actions were either right or wrong.
He tried to be honest and caring in his work.
Both men were focused on standards that were often in
contradiction to the usual and customary manners of
behavior. Both men were searchers for truth, meaning, and
purpose. That is the common element here. The meeting of the
two men in the house of a Gentile opened the way to a vision
of the Kingdom of God that Peter and the people of his faith
had not anticipated. It was when the household of Cornelius
reacted to the story of Jesus that it became evident that
these foreigners were welcomed into the Kingdom of God. What
had been suspicion, distrust, hatred, and violence was
transformed. These radically different people – Jews and
Romans – in that moment became brothers in Christ. This is a
recurring theme throughout the history of the world since
Jesus. New understandings about God and God’s living
presence came about. What was the motivation, the
understanding that led to this reconciliation? It was the
love of God for all nations evidenced in the ministry and
saving work of Jesus. That short public life revealed a God
who cared. That story of Jesus and these events with Peter
revealed that God was the God of all peoples and reality.
This was a larger than life turning point for the
followers of the Way of Jesus. In those early stages of
evangelization, the disciples of the Risen Lord went to the
synagogues of the Jews to preach Jesus the Christ, the Risen
One. Anyone who wishes to join in the Community of Believers
of the Way were expected to become practicing Jews. Even
though this narrative of Cornelius spread through the
community of believers, Paul in later years struggled to
impress on Jewish converts that Judaism was not the only
doorway to the new way of life. Jesus was not merely a
Messiah to the Jews but to all humankind. And so, it remains
to this day.
There have been many culture wars in our faith since
those days of first century Christianity. In our time
Christians have been labeled as either
conservative/traditional or liberal/progressive. That
labeling, as is the case in socio-economic-political life,
is an easy way to build prejudice against others. When we
pigeon-hole a person, we no longer need to consider him or
her a person deserving of dignity and respect. Cultural
conflicts are real and divide us into condemnatory camps.
In the centuries of Christianity whenever the wars become
particularly violent and destructive, there is always a
movement to seek closure. For that purpose, in our Catholic
tradition an ecumenical council is called. The hierarchy,
under the supervision of the successor of Peter, discuss the
matters most often in the light of the experience of the
faithful, the ordinary citizens of the Kingdom of God. In
those discussions, the Holy Spirit is called upon to guide
and inspire. But councils do not completely reconcile
factions. Combatants take one side or the other. In our time
this is certainly true regarding the Second Vatican Council
that took place in the 1960’s. That seems like a very long
time to achieve reconciliation through the work of that
council. A review of church history will demonstrate to us
that six decades is not out of the ordinary.
Catholics of all inclinations who understand history of
the church will know the impact of the Council of Trent in
the sixteenth century. That council was called to deal with
the Reformation that had fractured the Catholic Church. That
Protestant Reformation came about as a reaction to abuses
and corruption with the Catholic institution. The decrees of
Trent took nearly 150 years to be enacted. It takes time
within the Church for things to change. That was the case at
the time of Peter and his encounter with Cornelius. Perhaps
one day we will settle the current culture wars and once
again listen to the Word of God. Just as Peter struggled –
as did the other leaders of the Christian Community – to
understand the Love of God for all peoples, all nations, all
races, all languages, and all genders, so also, we struggle
now to accept that God loves all humanity. The constant
struggle is to accept and live the Way of Jesus in a world
that is replete with anger, with lies, with intrigue, with
pursuit of power, with violence, and under the influence of
those terrible twin sisters of greed and avarice. How do we
make sense of Jesus and the faith in such an environment? Is
our faith relevant in this age of technology? Are our
prayers heard by anyone? Where is the living God in our
time? Why do men and women continue to make their own gods,
to perform idolatry and sacrifice the innocent to mammon?
The answer is clear. The second reading this Sunday is
from the first letter of John. The gospel is also from John.
Both readings on this second last Sunday of Easter speak of
love as the foundation of a good life. In the letter of
John, we read that we are to love one another. In our time
and place, that is much more challenging than it was in the
first century of Christianity. We have contact with billions
more people than did those first century Christians. We know
of distant peoples’ struggles, their wars, their great
accomplishments, and their abysmal failures. We have been
taught to hate our enemies. That is the way of the world.
The way of the world is to conquer, to subjugate, to divide
us one from another. That is certainly not the way of Love
preached and practiced by our Messiah, Jesus, the Christ.
There is so much noise in our lives. There are thousands
of persons competing for our attention and for our dollars.
How do we know who is preaching and practicing the truth? It
comes down to this: those who love others and care for them
are the ones we should listen to and follow. Those who
divide us, inspire us to hatred and violence we must avoid.
No matter what high sounding words the dividers and haters
use. We should discern the wolves from the sheep by what
they do. We should understand that the wolves are often
dressed in the robes of authority and leadership. What is
clear is that the venom they produce kills our spirits and
turns us one against the other. The good of all is God’s
will. It is said that the Justice within God’s heart and
hands is more than the justice of humanity. God’s justice
always seeks that each person has access to what they need
to flourish – not mere survival.
What is difficult is that we must love even those who
create wars to divide us. We cannot believe them, and we can
never allow their example or influence to convince us to
follow in their ways. Their way leads to destruction and
death. It has always been so.
I want to see God and to know him. God seems so distant.
That distant requires me to use faith to believe that he
even exists. Yes, of course there is evidence of a creator –
stuff had to come from somewhere: there had to be a
beginning. There had to be a force that initiated the
material that exploded into the big bang out of which the
universe came into being.
But who is God? We have the history of faith from the
Hebrews. Their great contribution was that they were the
first of all peoples to believe in a God not of their own
making. We see them making terrible mistakes that resulted
in their enslavement. We see them being released from
slavery only to fall back into it once again by turning away
How do we see God? After eight decades of wondering,
screaming about it, questioning others, studying,
participating in a community of believers, it comes to me
that God is best known where there is love. Not the puppy
love of immaturity; nor in the self-satisfying love of using
others for pleasure or gain or power. It is in unconditional
loving of others that we experience within ourselves the
living presence of God. It is through faith that we come to
know Jesus. His deeds, his words, his healing, his constant
loving others have come down to us in the witnessing of a
"great cloud of martyrs." That line from our scripture about
martyrs is about those who witness to the living presence of
God in their lives. We are invited to join that great cloud.
Jesus is the expression of God’s love for us. When we
experience unconditional love granted to us by a spouse, a
parent, a relative, a fellow worker. Even strangers, good
Samaritans who care – no, no, not care; ones who love enough
to care more about us than themselves – then we experience
who and what God is. What is even more impactful, we then
experience God present to us through them and in our
community of walkers of the Way.
This is no Pollyanna fabrication. To love others the way
God loves is not an easy task. It takes years upon years of
struggle, of effort, of practice. The symbol of God’s love
is the cross endured by Jesus. As we experience our personal
sharing in that cross there comes to us the awful and
awesome surprise of personal resurrection. This takes
constant attention and practice.
LIVING FOR OTHERS: 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER B
Along the path of life, we come across both selfish and
unselfish people. To which group do you and I belong?
Perhaps we are a mixture of both generosity and selfishness.
But to the extent that we may still be partly selfish,
self-centered, and self-indulgent, we are not living the
message of Jesus: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one
another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than
this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John
Jesus lived his entire life for God and others. Speaking
God's love to people, showing them God's love, and living
God's love for them, that’s what Jesus of Nazareth was all
about. He practiced no racism, no apartheid, and no
discrimination. To rich and poor, powerful and powerless
alike, he reached out with unstinting love. Nobody was
excluded from the love burning in his great heart. Then he
died just as he had lived - with love and generosity,
kindness, compassion and forgiveness in his heart.
Ever since, hundreds and thousands of his followers have
lived his example and commandment. I’m thinking of so many
good mothers and fathers, who have given everything they
could to the care of their children, friends, neighbours and
strangers. I’m thinking of so many religious, men and women,
who have laid down their lives in the service of others, and
even more particularly of religious Sisters. A little while
ago in the press and other media both here and overseas,
there was an outpouring of love, appreciation and gratitude
for the lives and work of religious Sisters. For the ways
they have befriended people on the margins! For the ways
they have educated, often completely free of charge, a
countless number of children of poor families! For their
pastoral care and kindness to patients in hospitals! For
their visits to lonely and troubled prisoners in jail cells!
For their shelter and support to abused and hurting mothers
and children! For their outreach to refugees and
asylum-seekers! The list of their good deeds is endless. The
example of their humble and generous service leaves us in no
doubt that the meaning of life is to be a loving, caring
Let me illustrate the impact of such persons with two
striking examples, one a man, the other a woman. The first
is a Polish man, Maximilian Kolbe, who was born in 1894.
Killed by the Nazis in 1941, he was canonized as a martyr by
Pope John Paul II in 1982. In 1911 he professed his first
vows as a Conventual Franciscan friar. After ordination in
1918, he energetically shared his Catholic faith in print
and radio. In 1930 he went as a missionary to Japan. On the
outskirts of Nagasaki, he founded a monastery (still
standing), a Japanese newspaper, and a seminary.
Back in Poland during the Second World War, he provided
shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2000 Jews
whom he hid in his friary residence from Nazi persecution.
The Gestapo arrested him in 1941 and threw him into prison.
In Auschwitz his offer was accepted, to die in place of the
life of a married man with a family. After two weeks of
starvation, an injection of carbolic acid ended his life on
August 14th. He was found sitting against a wall, his face
radiant, his eyes open and fixed on a certain spot. John
Paul II named him ‘the patron saint of our difficult [20TH]
century’. Our Anglican brothers and sisters have honoured
him with a statue along with those of nineteen other 20th
century martyrs, on the facade of Westminster Abbey, London.
My second example of faithful caring love is the
Australian Sister of St Joseph, Irene McCormack. She may be
recognised as Australia’s next Saint. On her mission to the
Pueblo people of Peru she was martyred by Marxist guerrillas
on Tuesday, May 21st, 1991. Irene left Australia for Peru in
1987. Her aim was to keep bringing God’s love and literacy
to poor and marginalized persons, just as she had done in
Australia. She understood that going into Peru was to go
into the unknown, but with trust in God. She noted that her
life among the people there was ‘a gift’ from God. In the
village of Huasahuasi (population 5000) high up in the Andes
mountain range, she ran a simple village school and library
for the local children, led prayer services on Sundays when
the priest was away, and supervised a community kitchen from
which she distributed food to poor families. This helped to
supplement nutrition from the potatoes and maize they grew
themselves. But the thugs who shot her sentenced her, so
they said, for ‘pushing "Yankee" food’ and ‘bringing in
books’ ‘to push "Yankee" ideas.’
To know these saints of our times is to be inspired to
imitate them in their constant unselfish generosity. This,
of course this is a big ask. But with God on our side,
surely, we can do better and become better persons than we
already are! For this to happen to us, let us make our own
again and again St Ignatius Loyola’s famous Prayer for
Generosity: ‘Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to
serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek
for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward but that
of knowing that I do your will. AMEN.’
Gleeson CP" <email@example.com>
Year B: 6th Sunday of Easter
"What I command you is to love one another."
You may know the words of the ‘Desiderata’, "Lord, do not
make me a saint. Some of them are so very hard to live
with…" Well, my brother in the Lord, Eardley McDonald of the
Society of Jesus often liked to say this of his experience
of living in community with other Jesuits:
"To live above with those we love
Is full of bliss and glory.
To live below with those we know
Is quite a different story."
Sometimes, it is possible to live a little too close to
even the best and saintliest of men, and see rather more
than is wise of what they are like first thing in the
morning before they have had their coffee. Well I once had
the chance to live with a great spiritual guru, Gerry Hughes
of the Society of Jesus, British Province – a man with an
international reputation for personal holiness and spiritual
wisdom. His spiritual guidance helped many, many hundreds of
people to come to a real, living understanding of God and
their place in God’s world. And his books helped many
thousands more to reflect on their personal experience of
God and find His truth in their lives. And for three years,
I lived in community with him. And so I had the chance many
times to encounter him first thing in the morning before he
had had his coffee.
One day it so happened that I was taking a train from
Euston station back to Birmingham, where our community
lives. It was a late evening train and I was sitting
comfortably at my table when a young man came and sat
himself down right opposite me. Immediately he pulled out of
his rucksack a copy of "God of Surprises", Gerry’s
best-known book, which has sold more than a quarter of a
million copies. And he began to read avidly.
But, perhaps it had been a long day. After about 10 or 15
minutes, the pages ceased to turn, the expression left the
face, the eyes began to glaze. Then the eyelids slowly
drooped. And then finally, to my great joy, his face fell
forward slap onto the open book and he slept soundly. I
hugged myself with satisfaction.
He slept almost all the way to Birmingham and probably
should have been allowed to sleep longer. As the guard
announced that we would be shortly arriving into Birmingham
New Street, I gathered my bags and decided that it would not
be a kindness to disturb him. But there was then one of
those brief unaccountable delays when the train stopped just
short of the station and there was a short pause. And in
that moment, the devil was stronger than I. So I could no
longer resist the temptation to lean forward and tap the
young man on the shoulder. I apologized for waking him, but
explained that I simply could not resist telling him that
the author of his book would shortly be picking me up from
the station and that it was going to give me the most
exquisite joy to be able to tell him that I spent the entire
journey opposite someone fast sleep over one of his books.
The man had the grace to laugh. We shook hands and, as I
was just about to go, he looked me very straight in the eyes
and asked me, "Is he really like that?"
I looked from his bright expectant face to the book in
his hand and back again. There was a pause and then a jolt.
The train was moving again into the station. There was no
time to deflect the question with a joke or a prevarication.
I was forced to answer with the simple truth,
"Yes… Yes, that’s exactly what he’s like. That’s exactly
who he is. Because when I tell him this story, he will
Now, having had a little more experience, I have come to
realise that the reason that saints are so very hard to live
with is not generally because they are any less saintly in
private, but because of how they make the rest of us feel in
In the sharpness of the comparison, we know our own
inadequacies in following the Lord and we would not be human
if that did not hurt a little bit. And they show us also
what can be done if and when we are able to practice just a
little of what we preach.
Let us pray that we may be given the grace truly to love
And let us stand and profess our Faith in the power of
God to make saints of us all.
O’Reilly, SJ <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections,
and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the
preaching you hear. Send them to
email@example.com. Deadline is
Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.
-- Fr. John Boll, OP