Sixth Sunday of Easter
Gospel (John 15:9-17 )
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love on another.
A married couple lived on a farm in Iowa. The wife is starving for affection because her husband never show her any sign of love. Finally the wife confronted her husband: ” Why do you never say that you love me?” The husband answered stoically: “When we got married, I told you that I love you. If I change my mind, I will let you know.” Love is a very common word that we speak and hear. However, our understanding of the word “love” varies from person to person. Many times the meaning of love is twisted and distorted by self-interest and manipulation. In the gospel today, Jesus give us the commandment: “love one another”. What is the true meaning of love?
The passage of the gospel that we have just listened outlines for the us the characteristics of true love. At the beginning Jesus said: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” True love must reflects the love God the Father has for his son. That love is generative. The Father begot his son. That love overflow into creation, giving life to all creatures. Love is life-giving.
Love is free. Jesus said: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love”. The word “if” implies that we have choices. We may choose to keep Jesus’ commandments to remain in his love or may choose not to and not remain in his love. We are free to love Jesus. However once we make the decision to love Him, love is a total commitment. That is what “keep my commandments” means, a total commitment. Jesus is saying to us: “If you love me, then prove it to me by keeping my commandments. Don’t deceive yourselves and others by lip service, saying that you love me but acting on the contrary.” We either love Jesus or we don’t, keep his commandments or don’t. There is nothing in between.
Love gives joy. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.” True love gives joy. If we love Jesus, we will have the joy that Jesus has, the joy of being loved by the Father. This joy begins right her on earth and will continue in heaven.
Love is self-sacrificial. “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus showed us how to love one another by showing us how he loved us. He suffered violently and died on the cross to save us from sin and to give us eternal happiness. He sacrificed his life so that we can live forever. There were numerous examples of Catholics in the history of the Church who imitated Jesus in this self-sacrificial love. In 1993, the year of family, the late Pope John Paul II beatified blessed Gianna Beretta. She was born in 1922. She became a pediatric doctor. She was a mother of three children. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, she was diagnosed with cancer in the uterus. Being a doctor she knew that saving her life and her baby’s will be inconflict. She asked the doctors who took care of her to choose her baby’s life over hers if they had to make that difficult decision. The doctors honored her request. Gianna died a few days after she gave birth to her daughter who was present at her beatification. Another more recent example closer to home, in Ohio the year 2005, Bernadette Mimura was a Catholic mother of three children. She was pregnant with her fourth child when she got cancer. Immediate treatment would save her live but endanger the unborn baby. Bernadette refused treatment to save her child. She began treatment after giving birth to her baby. However it was too late to save her life. She died soon after giving birth. The mark that we always need to look for in true love is self-sacrifice.
Love is truth-giving. “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my father.” Jesus loves us so he recognizes that we deserve nothing less than the truth, even when the truth is challenging. Jesus was loving when He called Peter “Satan” because he tried to stop Jesus from fulfilling his mission as the Messiah. Jesus was loving when he picked up a whip and drove the merchants out of Jerusalem temple. Yet sometimes we deceive ourselves and others by saying: “I love that person so I have to lie to avoid hurting her/him.” We compromise the truth in the name of (fake) love. That is a lie. How do we know what is the truth in the world today where sweet talks and personal opinions are valued as, if not more than, the truth? If one can claim his personal opinion overrides the teaching of the Catholic Church, how do we know what is the truth? Jesus is the divine wisdom, the embodiment of truth itself. He entrusted the deposit of truth to the Catholic Church through the Apostles. The treasure of divine revelation has been embraced is the Tradition of the Church and written down in the Bible. The teaching of the Church is the accumulation of almost 2000 years of wisdom through reflecting on Divine Revelation by the brightest minds of humanity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. No personal opinion can override the truths of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.
As we reflect on Jesus’ commandment of love, my concern is with those who claim to be Catholic but support abortion. Supporting abortion is the farthest one can get away from Jesus’ commandment of love, because abortion is taking the most innocent helpless human life. Supporting abortion is contrary to every characteristic of love that we have reflected above. Some people may say: “We love people so we have to give them the choice to have an abortion.” That is a lie. What is the purpose of freedom? Are we free just for the sake of being free? God give us freedom so that we can love like him. So when we pick a choice that is contrary to love we destroy freedom itself by enslaving ourselves under the power of evil; we become destructive. We see that very clearly in abortion. It destroys the would be mother’s sense of goodness and happiness along with the unborn baby’s life. Abortion is not only unloving but it destroys love itself. Before killing the unborn baby it kills love in the would be mother. It kills motherhood.
The destruction of abortion goes beyond the lives of the unborn. It destroys the goodness of the whole society. I question the intelligence and the consistency of our society in allowing abortion. We claim ourselves to be a humane and civilized society. We outlaw dogfight and other forms of abusing animal. The Humane Society is active and zealous in protecting animal rights. Yet we legalize abortion, the killing of the most innocent helpless human life. The media covered and exposed many stories involving abusing animals, but they never said a word about thousand unborn babies who were killed every day in the United States. They never said anything about abortion has become a booming business that is making big money on the blood of innocent unborn babies. Last year, Planned Parenthood, the biggest abortion franchise in USA, reported an annual income of more than a billion dollars. In hundred of abortion clinics all over the country, they performed around 290,000 abortions in the year 2006, more than 800 a day. How can the United States stand up in the world and claim to be civilized and humane while our hands are stained with the blood of innocent aborted babies and the greed that harvests profits from their blood?
Supporting abortion is not only contrary to Jesus’ commandment of love, but it also is more than uncivilized and inhumane. The word barbaric is not strong enough a description. Those who support abortion in any way, as politicians or as voters, must not claim the name Catholic and must have nothing to do with the Catholic Church, because the Church is passionate in carrying out Jesus’ commandment of love. Love is life-giving. Love is a total commitment. Love is self-sacrificial and truth-giving.
Rev. Bernard Nguyen Hung
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church