6th Sunday of Easter
EASTER 6TH SUNDAY
Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48 1Jn. 4: 7-10 Jn. 15: 9-17
Real joy consists in experiencing God’s love and in being a witness to it.
To live is to be happy:
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Jesus speaks of his joy remaining in us. If we raise the question whether Jesus was happy and joyous, we understand that the gospels do not present him so, at least explicitly. While the evangelists tell us that Jesus expressed other emotions (Jesus wept at the sight of the body of Lazarus, Jesus was angry with the Pharisees etc.), they do not much present a Jesus who was happy and joyous.
That could be one of the reasons why our liturgical celebrations are very serious, without much room for joy, though we often speak of Eucharistic celebration. We believe in a Jesus or in a God who is very serious, severe and stern, not in a God who celebrates life.
Cardinal Martini, the archbishop of Milan has the following beautiful story to this effect. The story has to do with an Italian couple that’s getting married. They have an arrangement with the parish priest to have a little reception in the parish courtyard outside the church. But it rained, and they couldn’t have the reception, so they said to the priest, “Would it be alright if we had the celebration in the church?” Now the parish priest wasn’t one bit happy about having a reception in the church, but they said, “We will eat a little cake, sing a little song, drink a little wine, and then go home.” So the parish priest was persuaded.
But we know our people! First they drank a little wine, sang a little song, and then drank a little more wine, and sang some more songs, and within a half hour there was a great celebration going on in the church. And everybody was having a great time, lots of fun and frolic. But the parish priest was all tense, pacing up and down in the sacristy, all upset about the noise they were making.
The assistant priest comes in and says, “I see you are quite tense.”
“Of course, I am tense. Listen to all the noise they are making, and in the House of God! for heaven’s sake!”
“Well Father, they really had no place to go.”
“I know that! But do they have to make all that racket?”
“Well, we mustn’t forget, must we, Father, that Jesus himself was once present at a wedding!”
The parish priest looked at his eyes and said, “I know Jesus Christ was present at a wedding banquet. YOU don’t have to tell me that. But remember that there was no Blessed Sacrament there!”
We seem to believe in a God who is more interested in correcting us than in celebrating life with us. We always think of God disciplining us and demanding so much from us, and completely forget the fact that all these disciplining and demanding are aimed at the harvest of joy.
A deeper perusal of the Bible, especially the New Testament, would reveal to us a God who celebrates life. Certainly Jesus was a happy person. There is no doubt about it. As an external sign of it, he often took part in celebrations and banquets; He compared the kingdom of God to festive dinner (Mt. 22: 1ff); The evangelists say that he rejoiced and invited people to rejoice (Lk. 10: 21; Mt. 5: 12). If Jesus had not been a joyous person, he would have never uttered the statement “..so that my joy may remain in you….”
To be happy is to love others:
Jesus, besides being fully joyous, also promises us of sharing that joy with us. On our part, we are called to develop a right predisposition in us so that we experience the joy of Christ. We do know that we are living in a world that is crazy after happiness. People are after money, sex, fame, name etc., all in the name of pursuing happiness. However we know that this pursuit is not yielding much fruit. Material world offers a sort of happiness that is just skin-deep. In order to experience the real, life-giving joy, we are called to abide in the love of Jesus. It is by experiencing the compassionate, sacrificial love of Christ, we can experience real joy in life.
In the year 2005, Cardinal Ratzingar became the Pope Benedict XVI. The title of his first encyclical was, ‘Deus est Caritas’. In today’s second reading, the same thing is pointed out by St. John. He says, ‘God is Love’. There are three types of love. The first is ‘eros’ which is very much connected to the bodily sex. The second type is called ‘amor’ – the love that exists between friends and companions. The final type is ‘agape’ that expresses itself in compassionate service, selfless actions, and sacrificial attitude. . It is this third type of love that Jesus and St. John speak of as the way for happiness.
The first reading goes one step further still. It speaks of the category of people towards whom our love needs to be directed. It was a time in which the Jews considered the Gentiles to be alien to God and unfit to relate with God. Cornelius was a gentile, and so Peter, as a devout good Jew, did not at first believe that God must have revealed Himself to him. But the successive things that he witnessed and experienced, revealed to him that Gentiles were not excluded from the ambience of God’s love. The first reading challenges us to become aware of all sorts of mental blockages and prejudices that we have created towards others and break them. It is one of the very essential ways of developing a right disposition in us to abide in Jesus’ love.
Loving Father, help us to realize that our happiness lies in love and love alone, Amen.