“The Purifying Power of Love”
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 6, 2018
Acts 10: 44-48
Psalm 98: 1-6
1 John 5: 1-6
John 15: 9-17
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
It has taken us 40 days to prepare for Easter, a most glorious time. We are now on day 36 and 14 more days ahead. Every day of our lives is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It is a celebration of His victory on the cross. Every day of our lives is a celebration of our redemption.
I hope and pray that the desire and purpose of God for Easter is being accomplished in each of our lives. The price for our salvation is so great and so costly. I hope that we are not wasting this precious gift of God. As one of your Pastors in this church, it is my calling, my passion, my desire and hope that I could bring each of you, by the grace of God, to the fulfilment of God’s design for your life. The greatest tragedy of any man is not death, but a wasted life. There are many things today that are taking, in fact, stealing our time - things that would really not matter in the years to come. There are many pursuits and activities that we have become so busy with - fad and fashions - which have occupied our time but have no real significance with our destiny and future.
The gospel today brings us to the heart of God. It brings us to the heart of Jesus. It is a theme that many people talk about; many people sing about; write poems about; daydream and fantasize; and yet, unfortunately, very few really understand. Before we proceed, let us remove any mind-set that might hinder us from seeing the truth that God wants us to hear in the message of the Word today. Come with a hunger, with a thirst for righteousness, as one who is hungry and thirsty for the love of God. Because “love” is so much talked about, we all have the tendency to shut out ourselves when we hear another message about love. Please don’t, but instead, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and to reveal the love of God which He Himself poured out into our hearts.
The scene of our gospel places Christ at that time, on the night before He did His work of salvation for us. Jesus, knowing the inevitable sacrifice He will undergo, teaches His disciples the most important message that He would leave with the men to whom He will entrust the future and the continuity of His mission on earth. At least five chapters in the Gospel according to John were devoted to the hours that Jesus spent with His disciples at this time. It begins within the Upper Room where they had their Last Supper. They rise from there and travel by foot to the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was during this journey that Jesus delivers the gospel which we have today.
In John 15:9, Jesus says, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you, abide in My love.” This is the core of our existence and purpose for our living today. This is why the Mass always begins with the reminder, “Jesus said, ‘The greatest commandment is this… There is no other commandment greater than this.’” It is the whole passion into which we should put all our energies into. Jesus said that this is the foremost of all the Law and the Prophets. It is the reason for our life.
What does it mean to “abide in the love of Christ”? Abiding in Christ, as we have seen last week, is to maintain a living communion with Him, a connection with Him, always attached to the source of power. In our gadget filled world, we encounter this every time. The power of any cell phone, any tablet, laptop or computer is in the batteries or power bank. If the contacts are weak, then the gadget, no matter how intricate and powerful, will not be able to perform or do anything. Similarly in our lives, if our connection with God is weak or missing, then our lives will lose the meaning it was created by God to have.
When Jesus said, “to abide in My love,” what He meant was to abide in the love of God. What is the “love of God”? Because we are so much immersed today in our lives in a culture that has become opposite to the culture of God’s people, we become confused and misguided in what love really is, more especially in the meaning of the love of God.
Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 3:19 was, “Father, I want them to know the love of God which surpasses knowledge.” Do we see the conflict here? How can we know something that surpasses knowledge? Yet as we think about this contradiction, we realize, “Isn’t this so much like the principles of God?” He said, “If you die, you will live.” Scriptures also says, “The first will be last, the last will be first.” Also, “If you give, you will have more.” These are hard to understand and explain with our human intellect.
Many things in God’s kingdom seemingly surpass our understanding. This is why many people today miss the message of the Gospel of life. For many, people spend 15 years of their lives being trained according to what their senses tell them. Yet, how many years or months do we spend to train the spirit of God which will endure forever in us? We read or hear passages similar to these and we immediately tune ourselves off. We can’t explain nor understand, so we might as well just leave it. But what we should be doing instead is to allow the Holy Spirit to bring understanding to us of what God means in these passages. It is not in the homily or the preacher that will bring life to us. It is the Holy Spirit’s presence. We have a wonderful Counsellor and Teacher who lives within us and who (Jesus said) will teach us all things and bring to our remembrance all that He has promised.
In this prayer of St. Paul, God desires us to spiritually understand and have a revelation of the love of God which surpasses human, sense, knowledge. In other words, abiding in the love of God takes a supernatural enabling and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In Acts 10:44, when Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. These were not the scholars or the Jews. These people were pagans who were worshipping statues and goddesses; but when Peter spoke with the power of the Holy Spirit, they understood.
Up to this point of our lives, most of us have tried to understand and know God’s love based on our human experience of love, an understanding based on feelings and emotions. This is why many people today judge God and question His love because they could not feel the love of God. They could not seem to reconcile the love of God with the many sufferings of man which we see in the world around us. Yet, we judge the perfect God and His perfect love based on our imperfect thoughts and affections. God sees all of human history and all of His eternal purpose. We see only a small portion, a brief moment, and very little speck in the timeline of creation.
There are three things that I would share in the gospel about what the love of God does. First, God’s love is everlasting. This is what the word “abide” means. It stays; it does not go away. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says that God’s love never fails. In another translation it candidly says, “God’s love never stops.” In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” This is what “abiding” implies. It shows us the commitment of God to the end. He will make sure that His purpose for our lives will be accomplished, thus, we need not fear. Don’t evaluate our lives with our understanding because God’s love surpasses this.
In the world, we see around us a love that is transient, quick, short-lived, and easily giving up. Separation, divorce, and aborted relationships are getting more common today. At one time, I was in a coffee shop, and I couldn’t help but overhear two ladies talking to each other. One lady was speaking about her ex-boyfriend expressing her pain and agony. I just prayed for her quietly that she would encounter the true love of God In her life. Today, we are surrounded with this common expression, “Mayroon ba talagang forever?” If we know the abiding love of God, we can say a resounding, “Yes!” There is a forever that results in fruit that will remain and stay and last.
The second point that God’s love does is: God’s love brings order. This is what it means, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.” There will be order in our lives. In order to have order, there should be a command. At home, in the work place, or in the community, there should be one giving the commands so that there will be order because commandments are for order.
God sees the difficulty and the opposition that man would go through in his life on earth. He placed certain principles in place to help us understand what it is like to abide in His love. He gave us commandments to become our lampposts, our guide in the dark path of life. This is the reason why, in this Church, we insisted for each of us to get involved in the study of God’s Word. When we stay in God’s Word, we abide in His love. It is in the action of the Spirit and the Word that will bring love in our lives.
Proverbs 4:20-22 says, “My son, give attention to my Word. Incline your ear to My sayings. Do not let it depart of your sight; keep it in the midst of your heart.” The Word is life to those who find it, and it is health to one’s body. We do not like to talk about commandments or laws or rules. We want the blessing. Yet we do not realize that the blessing is in the commandment. There is no fear in the commandments. There is nothing about the commandment being a burden or a weight. God’s commandments are not burdensome. These commandments do not destroy our happiness. Rather it is in the obedience to the commandments of God that will bring joy into our lives. When we obey the commandment with true heart, it will spring out with love in our hearts. We will see the joy because Christ want our joy to be made full as it says in John 15:11.
The third point that God’s love does is that God’s love makes us His friends. Not only is abiding in the love of God everlasting. Not only is it not a burden but a joy. Abiding in God’s love involves a special kind of relationship. The relationship is called friendship.
Today, we have a very different understanding from God about friendship. The society we live in today thrives on shallow relationships. Social media uses the term “friends” in a very casual, light manner. In fact, I know of one who has more than a thousand friends in his Facebook account, and I wonder how can he get in touch with all of them? The friendship that Christ calls us to makes is to abide in His love. There is permanence, depth, a state of intimacy and closeness. The word “friend" used by Christ is the same word for love, which is fileo. It is proven by the readiness to sacrifice. It is to lay aside our convenience, comfort, and pleasure so that others may benefit.
Christ says in verse 13, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” In 1John 5:6, it says, “This is the one who came by water and blood.” Christ came to save us by water, by baptism, and by blood. This is sacrifice. Several hours after Jesus spoke these words in the Gospel, He hung on the cross, bleeding from the wounds of the scourging earlier inflicted on Him, and from the nails that held his hands on that wooden beam, the crown of thorns piercing on His skull, the heat of the noon day sun beating on his whole body; and yet all he could think of was the crowd saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Then, he thought of the criminal crucified beside him saying, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” He thought,too, of His weeping mother who was now going to have no one with her and He said, “Woman, behold your son; son behold your mother.” It is so easy to have self-pity; it is so easy to withhold help when we are hurting and are in pain. The challenge of God’s love is to give this assistance, this help despite of our hurt and pain, and the inconvenience that we have. Greater love has no one than this to lay down one’s life.
On August 16, 1987, a Northwest Airline flight 255 took off at 8:45 in the evening from the Detroit airport. Just moments after the take-off, the jet plunge into the city and crashed. 155 passengers were on board; 154 passengers died. There was one lone survivor – a 4-year old girl by the name of Cecilia. It was a miracle for the plane exploded. Her parents and an older brother all perished with the rest of the passengers and the flight crew. How could this one girl survive this harrowing experience? According to the story that was pieced together after the crashed, the girl recovered. Her mom who was sitted beside her, and upon learning of the imminent danger of the plane crash, she took of her seatbelt, stood up and went in front of her daughter, sandwiching her and the plane seat. She wrapped her arms around her to protect her from this perilous crash. The mother died, but the girl was saved. Greater love has no one than this to lay down one’s life.
Are we willing to be inconvenienced? Are we willing to give attention? Yes, sometimes, this is all that we need to do. Children pay attention to your parents because giving attention is giving your time and your life. Parents pay attention to your children. Pay attention instead of doing other things or multitasking. It has to start here. We don’t have to go to a plane crash to prove this, but it starts with the small things of our lives. Are we willing to abide in God’s love?