|SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEAR B|
|By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp|
|Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter - on the Epistle|
Love Is God
|Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-485||1 John 4:7-10||John 15:9-17|
In the Italian language, the expression amore divino could be understood in two ways. It could be understood as "love of God" (divino) or "love of wine" (di vino). Sometimes when you want to tease someone who has just fallen in love, you ask them, "Is it a question of love of God or of love of wine?" By love of God they mean genuine, disinterested love and by love of wine they mean love that is driven by pleasure-seeking and self-interest. In today's 2nd reading from John's First Letter, John paints for us a picture of God's love, which is another name for true love. John's teaching on love in today's passage can be summarised under three headings: why love, what is love, and how does one love?
The passage begins with an exhortation to love. "Beloved, let us love one another (1 John 4:7a). John addresses his readers as "beloved." This shows that already there is love in the community. What John is actually asking of them is that they should continue loving one another. This message is one that we all need to hear. If we love one another, then we should continue loving one another even more. And if we do not as yet love one another, then it is time to start doing so.
From here John goes on to give his readers reasons why they must love ane another. They must love one another "because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love" (verses 7b-8). John gives two reasons, a positive one and a negative one. Positively, he says that love is from God. Living a life of love, therefore, is the way to be sure that we know God and that we are children of God. On the flip side, he argues that not having love for others simply means that one does not know God. John's message is simple: If we have love in our lives, we have God in our lives; and if we do not have love in our lives, we do not have God either. This is because God is love and love is God. God and love are two different words that mean the same thing. You cannot separate one from the other.
John is addressing people who believe they know God, people for whom it is important to love God, people who are focussed on loving God so much so that they sometimes neglect loving their fellow human beings. John is telling them that anyone who claims to be a spiritual person or devout lover of God but does not focus equally on practically loving his of her brothers and sisters is living a lie. To grow in one's knowledge and love of God, one must endeavour to grow in one's knowledge and love of one's fellow human beings.
At this point John's hearers are beginning to wonder what on earth John means by God's love, and how God's love differs from natural human love. So John tells them. He tells them by giving them a practical example of God's love. "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him" (verse 9). Unlike much of human love, which is driven by self-interest, God is moved to love us not because He, God, needed something but because we needed something which He, God, can give. Before humans love they ask themselves, "What is in it for me?" Before God loves God asks Himself, "How can I help you?" People love because they want to receive something, be it something as intangible as simply feeling good in the other's company. God loves because He wants to give. That is why the fact of God giving His only Son to die that we might live becomes a typical sign of the way God loves us and the way we should learn to love one another.
This last point on the difference between how God loves and how humans love is so important for John that he goes on and adds one final statement on the nature of true love. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (verse 10). God loves unconditionally. Humans often love by quid pro quo (nothing goes for nothing). For John true love is found not in the way humans usually love but in the way God loves.
We often tend to see love as one commandment among so many. Today John teaches us that love is not one out of so many commandments, it is the only commandment. Moreover, love is not just a commandment of God, love is God Himself. But John is fast to add that not all forms of loving qualify as God since some forms of love do not come from God or lead to God. May God, our loving Father, who is Himself love, help us to purify our love for Him and for one another, so that we can love as generously and as unconditionally as He, God, loves us.
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