Acts 15:22-31; Ps 57:8-10,12; Jn 15:12-17
At this time in history it’s dangerous to pray in public. Many schools soon will be holding graduation exercises, and it used to be expected that someone would offer an invocation to open and a blessing to close the graduation ritual. It was a part of the group expectation; it was not a problem. Even though the auditorium was filled with a great diversity of religion and non-religions, it was part of the secular ritual. Indeed, there is a time and a place to give thanks to God. As our Preface for the Eucharistic Prayer reminds us—“it’s always and everywhere!” The psalm response invites just such a response to the mercy and faithfulness of the LORD Our God. Indeed, our hearts are steadfast in chanting his praise. This is the way we start the day; with heart-felt praise we awake the dawn. Our hearts awake with lyre and harp! Indeed, we are not afraid to give thanks among all the peoples for his mercy towers to the heavens and his faithfulness to the skies. The LORD Our God is exalted above all creation, and we are jubilant to share in His praises. We have every good reason to be thankful. Indeed, to be thankful at every moment of the day and all night long. The early church invited all peoples to share in the glory of God revealed through the Covenant in Christ that came through the Jewish people. They did not have to become Jewish to enjoy the benefits of the New Covenant. This radical openness to the Gentiles is the fulfillment of the command the Lord Jesus gave his disciples in today’s gospel. At the Mystical Supper of the Lamb, we learn daily how to love one another as we share in the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
We still have much to learn from our ancestors in the faith. The attitude of the Apostles and presbyters in agreement with the whole Church is nothing less than the attitude of the Lord Jesus. Our fundamental motivation is the universal salvific will of God. The Father wants us his children to share in the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. Indeed, we are all summoned to glimpse the glory of heaven, our true home. All of us will be celibate, like the angels and all of us will be married to the Lord Jesus, our Divine Spouse. This is the Father’s plan from the very beginning of creation. Some Jewish converts in the early church went out without any official mandate and upset the Gentile converts. These Jewish Christians upset the new believers from among the Gentiles and disturbed their peace of mind. Such is not the will of God as the whole Church agreed. Our leaders back then spoke with authority; they were not afraid of the truth. Indeed, they knew that the truth sets us free. Judas and Silas were to speak this truth saying, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.” This kind of submission would enable the Jewish converts to feel comfortable with the Gentile converts in sharing a common meal. This simple and clear message brought great delight to the Gentile Christians. Such love among the earliest members of our church is a model for us today as we struggle with all the things that divide us in the world of economics, politics, and business. What are the truly necessary things to which all of us must submit in order to reveal the truth of the Gospel?
The universal salvific will of God is revealed in the teaching of the Son of God. The Lord Jesus teaches his disciples at the Last Supper that they must love one another as he loves them. That is unconditionally, without hesitation, forever, and without regret. This kind of love flows only from the pierced side of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot love as he loves us without being one with him, united in his body, blood, soul and divinity. The continuation of this teaching about love uses universal images: friends, slaves, chose, appointed, fruit and command. What human community is not familiar with such language? We know the difference between slave and friend. We know that the greatness of our love is seen in our willingness to be sacrificial. Such is the love that we show to our brothers and sisters. We know what it means to choose to love. We also know what it means to be chosen, or appointed to reveal such love. This alone will bear fruit, a fruit that remains unto the ages of ages. Such love is not just a suggestion from some ancient wise man. It is the command of the One who was appointed to choose us as his friends and set us free from the slavery of sin, prejudice, and evil. This command of the Lord Jesus to his disciples makes absolute demands upon us, his disciples at this time in the history of the church, the first human community made out of mutually condemning ethnic groups.