Sixth Sunday of Easter: Remain in Love

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Happy Easter! Alleluia, Jesus is risen! As we celebrate this Sixth Sunday of Easter today, we may find that some of the Easter joy and excitement at the resurrection has faded from our daily life. And yet, here we are, still in the Easter season, with Pentecost two weeks away. In today’s gospel passage from John, we hear Jesus say “Remain in my love” (Jn 15:9).

Perhaps this word “remain” is a good one for us to keep in mind as we continue to celebrate Easter. The word speaks of endurance, of lasting commitment, of an intention that goes beyond the single day of great rejoicing of Easter Sunday. It endures beyond an octave of the Easter solemnities. It even exists beyond the Sixth Sunday of Easter. We are called to remain in Jesus’s love as these days of Easter, and the whole year, continue.

We might also consider the word “love” as it appears in our readings today. In the second reading from 1 John, we have some beautiful words: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:7-8). And in the gospel: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

Love is a word with an emotional charge to it, and it makes sense that we often associate it primarily with feelings. When we experience love, there is passion, desire, gratitude, and warmth. Those emotions often enable us to accomplish difficult tasks ungrudgingly: we get up at night to take care of a sick baby, we drive for hours to visit a loved one, we sacrifice our personal comfort to provide comfort for those we love. But of course, love goes beyond emotion. Real love is not simply a personal feeling, but a willing the good of the other.

In the Aristotelian friendship types, a “complete friendship” is one where the friends will the good of the other. And what we see on this Sixth Sunday of Easter is that God wills the good of his people, regardless of the sacrifice that entails. We see in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles that this is not relegated to a chosen few, but rather is for all people. Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection is for all people; everyone who believes has the opportunity for baptism into the Church. God wills the good of all people.

And, of course, God wills the good of each individual person, too, with a unique love. Jesus’s resurrection opens up the possibility of remaining in his love; Jesus is not simply a historical person with an amazing ministry that met a tragic end. His resurrection shows the enduring triumph of God over evil and the invitation for all people, and each person, to continue in that eternal love. Each and every single day, the complete friendship offered by Jesus is one that seeks our good, which is remaining in his love and following his commands, which are set forth with our good in mind.

The call that accompanies remaining in love is, of course, to love one another. It is a choice to will the good of those that we encounter. It may sound too general when we speak of love in this way. Of course, we know God loves us and that we should love others, but how? For this reason, the Church has named the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy based on Jesus’s teachings. The Corporal Works of Mercy are as follows: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are as follows: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and dead.

As this Easter season continues, we may want to take some time to consider how we are remaining in Jesus’s love. Do we realize how God loves us personally as individually? Do we see how God’s love is for all? How do we love others, willing their good? Have we performed the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy during this season of Easter?

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