by Lisa Fernandes
Love is the focus of today’s readings. Jesus starting in Mark 12:28 states that love of God and love of one’s neighbour are of utmost importance. In the Bible, there are four types of love identified: storge (empathy), philia (friendship), eros (erotic) and agape (God’s unconditional love). It is this unconditional love from God that is discussed today.
In the first reading, we read about Gentiles being given the gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit is God by extension they are being given the gift of love.
In the second reading we are asked to: “…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.” (1 John 4.7-8)
Love is such an important part of the Bible that Pope Benedict’s first encyclical called Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) dealt with love, and Pope Francis referred to it in Feb 2016 on its 10th anniversary when he said: “God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love: charity is his essence, it is his nature.”
God’s love is unconditional; his love is very different from the love we often experience with one another because it is not based on feelings. He doesn’t love us because we please him. He loves us simply because He is love.
This theme of unconditional love for one another continues in the Gospel where Jesus asks us to love one another as he loves us: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15.12-13)
By asking us to love one another as God loves us, he is setting out a high standard of love. Recent events have made me realize that perhaps that standard is reachable. In the recent tragedy on Yonge St, strangers showed love for the victims of the van rampage as they lay injured in the street; many rushed to the aid of people they did not even know. And as the first reading tells us, the love of God is for all nations. And both the victims and the Good Samaritans in this tragedy represented the diversity of nations that live in Toronto: “…God shows not partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10.34-35)
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us what love of neighbour is. We have just seen an example of how this can be real.
Acts 10.25-26, 34-35, 44-48
1 John 4.7-10
Vine and Branches
by Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB
“I am” statements are characteristic of the way Jesus presents himself to us in John’s Gospel: I am the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd. Today he says he is the Vine and we are the branches. These “I am” statements help us to see ourselves and our relationships more clearly, how we relate to Jesus and to others. We are the flock that hears his voice and the branches that are pruned to bear much fruit. When Jesus says that “I am the vine, you are the branches” he is presenting an image of believers who know who they are in and through their relationship to Jesus. The vine and its branches give us an image of a community of believers whose members share in the same divine life. The Church is a mystery that thrives on the resurrected life of Jesus which surges through all its members. We live in Christ and Christ lives in us. As Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you…” Although Jesus looks after us, being a community of believers united in mind and heart with him takes work and commitment. It takes faith and trust, hope and courage. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit, the community must work together to make sure that there is continued growth. St. Paul tells us, “… let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth…”
- Acts 9.26-31
- Psalm 22
- 1 John 3.18-24
- John 15.1-8
The Kingdom of God
by Norm Tanck, CSB
We have arrived scripturally and liturgically in Jerusalem. There are two alternate Gospel readings for the blessing of Palms (Mk 11:1-10 and Jn 12:12-16) that remind us that Jesus had come there as crowds of pilgrims were gathering to celebrate the Feast of Passover. For the Jews this was a feast that celebrated their freedom from slavery in Egypt but also looked forward to the time when Messiah would come and free them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. It would not be too much of a stretch of the imagination to see Jesus’ arrival as a protest march confronting the Empire, proclaiming that its power would end, hopefully soon. But it is much, much more than that. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus arrives riding a colt, which could be a horse (only Matthews’s Gospel says it’s a donkey). He comes riding in like a king, while people place their cloaks on the ground, a gesture usually reserved for royalty. At the same time, they are waving leafy branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”. That kingdom would come sooner than, I am sure, the crowds may have expected or hoped for. But it would be much different than the kingdom of their dreams. It would be a kingdom that transcends political powers and boundaries. It would be an eternal, universal kingdom of justice and peace. A kingdom where even death would not hold God’s people captive. It was the Kingdom of God. When we read about the suffering and death of Jesus today and on Good Friday it is important for us to look beyond the Cross, and even the Resurrection, to see that the Kingdom of God is breaking through and that we have been invited to live in it forever. The Triduum (Holy Thursday through to the Easter Vigil) is a celebration of our liberation from sin and death and of our citizenship in the Kingdom of God.