Reflection - Sixth Sunday of Easter 2021
The gospels in the liturgical post-Easter period of time, jump around from before the death of Jesus to the period of time after his resurrection.
This Sunday we return to the meal shared before his death, the Last Supper. He had special words for the disciples, a departing gift to them of what was deepest in his heart. ( The gospels record how unsuccessful he was! But Pentecost was not yet.) Then there was the significant and symbolical action of washing their feet.
This night was his last chance, before he died, to talk about his relationship to them and their relationship with one another which flows from the master plan of his relationship with the Father.
He says that he loves the disciples in the same manner as the Father loves him. He tells them to remain in his love and if they do, they will be joyful.
We hear the well- known statement, ‘A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.’
This is what Jesus is going to do and no doubt the early Christian communities understood that they were to imitate him in their lives. People who have no explicit Christian faith lay down their lives all the time.
They save people from drowning and drown instead, they risk their lives for strangers and die while saving the other.
From a faith perspective, whoever does this is shows us that the kingdom of God is present whenever or wherever this happens. In their heroism, we identify the hidden face of God because we walk in faith and see God present in the action. Why?
We are friends, no longer servants, our relationship has no servility about it. The fact that there are billions of us human does not detract from the specialness that God has for us.
Jesus is delegated to give us this message. It is strange that people find it difficult to love themselves as Jesus has loved us. What stops us from responding to that commandment, which is not imposed on us, but basically inviting us to be and act as Jesus did.
What that means is: see with his eyes, hear with his ears to the story people have to tell about themselves and what they have done, speak with his words coming from his heart. Slowly we are transformed to be like him.
Biblical commentators point out that John’s gospel was for building a ‘faith’ community. Faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, is our identification mark given through baptism. Not our language, race, cultural habits, religious preference: faith will bind us together. Paul with the insight of a genius called us ‘the Body of Christ!’
Today we Christians are present everywhere, responding to Jesus who, in next week’s gospel commands us, to spread his Good News - we are friends of God, friends of Jesus and loved by a powerful yet merciful God.
Columban Fr Gary Walker is currently living at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane.