Year B: Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 15: 9-17

No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

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 may 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 one another.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe that love continues to unite people even after death? Do you have any personal experience that affirms such a belief? Explain
  2. How can we grow in our capacity to experience and share God’s love for us, regardless of how well we’ve been loved by others? Do you have any personal experience with this?
  3. Jesus “commands us ” to love one another as he loves us. How do you experience the love of God in your life, so that you may love others in the same way? Where does this happen for you easily and where is it most challenging?
  4. Do you feel that you have to earn God’s love? Do you know why? How do today’s readings help you understand that you do not have to do this?
  5. How does it sit with you to think of Jesus as serving you, as your friend and your brother?

Biblical Context

John 15:9-17
Mary M. McGlone CSJ

Today’s Gospel gives us a seat at the Last Supper table where Jesus is making his farewell address. This was his moment to tell his disciples how important their relationship with him had been and would become. As was his habit, Jesus circled the same themes in various ways, finding enough metaphors and images for everyone to get the point.

This reading begins with an astounding statement: “As the Father loves me, so I love you.” That’s another way of saying, “I love you as an integral, intimate part of my own identity. I could not be who I am without you.”

Then came the invitation: “Remain in my love.” The word “remain” can also be translated as “abide” or “live.” It expresses Jesus’ request that we return the love he is giving. To abide in his love implies a double sense of both receiving life from him and dwelling in him. Far more than any sort of companionship, this is Jesus’ request and invitation that disciples, among whom most of us hope to number ourselves, cultivate a relationship with him that makes them ever more conscious that he is the source of their life. Abiding in him allows his approach to life, his values, his loves and desires to take root in us. He is inviting us to relate to him in the same way as he relates to the Father.

The concrete example he gives of this is the request that we keep his commandments just as he keeps the Father’s. When we look at his life, we do not find him concentrating on rules but living out of the heart of his relationship with God. For Jesus to keep God’s commands was not a question of law but of sharing the Father’s deepest desires and acting on them in his own life. That relationship with the Father was not only his source of life, but also, as he says here, his joy — the joy he wanted to share with his disciples as well. In that same vein, he tells us that he doesn’t look to us to be his servants, but his friends — people who share his own heart’s desires.

Then comes the apostolic commission. Unlike what we hear in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus does not give disciples a mission job description. There’s no command to preach, baptize or heal. All Jesus tells us to do is bear the fruit that springs from love. That, of course, is a job description without limits. But he also gives us an unlimited promise of support, assuring us that when we ask the Father anything in his name, in other words, whenever we desire to unite ourselves more deeply to him and his purpose, the Father will grant our petition.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus left with the promise that he would always be with us. Here he promises not just to be with, but that his life can flourish in us.

Candy Wrappers and The Love of Christ

Fr. Michael K. Marsh

The summer before my fourth-grade year we moved to my mom’s hometown where we would live while my dad was in Viet Nam. The day before he left, we drove to Kansas City and spent the night at the Holiday Inn near the airport. The next day we went to the airport. Back then families could go to the gate. On the way to the gate my dad stopped at one of the little shops and bought me a York Peppermint Patty. I ate the candy and carefully folded the wrapper and put it in my pocket. I had to keep it. I believed that somehow it carried his presence. It was his gift to me, the last thing he touched, and my connection to him.

At a deeper level, holding on to that foil wrapper revealed my desire to be connected, to be remembered, to have and to know my place in life. We all want that. Regardless of how old we are or the circumstances of our lives we want to know: Who am I? What are the connections that will sustain my life? Where is my place in this world?

Those are the questions Jesus is addressing as he speaks to his disciples in today’s gospel. It is the evening of the last supper. Jesus is speaking final words, one last sermon, to his disciples. He is preparing them for life without his physical presence, foreshadowing what resurrected life, Easter life, is to be like. He offers some direct answers to those questions: You are my friends. Abiding love, “laying down life kind of love” is the connection that will sustain you. I am your place in this world.

Most of us spend a lifetime searching for those answers and trying to make them our own. They must, however, become more than intellectual answers. They must become lived answers. We learn to trust and live those answers in relationship with one another. Life is a school for learning to love. Death is a school for learning to live.

Our searching for those answers is ultimately our searching for Christ. That searching is always there, but it becomes more acute in times of change: the death of a loved one, kids growing up and moving out, a new job, retirement, a debilitating illness, a move to a new town, a marriage or a divorce. In those moments we want something to hold on to, something to comfort, encourage, and reassure us; a candy wrapper that will guide us through life.

About ten years ago I was talking with my dad about his year in Viet Nam. I told him about the candy wrapper. As I told the story I realized in a new way that the candy wrapper was not the gift, the thing that carried his presence. I was. I was the last thing he touched when he hugged and kissed me. I was the one to whom he gave last minute instructions, “You are now the man of the house. Take care of your mom and sister.” I was the one who received his words, “I love you.” My life, my actions, my very being somehow carried his presence and our shared love. The connection was and always had been within me not a foil candy wrapper.

Sadness, fear, and desperation often cause us to grasp for candy wrappers in one form or another. We stuff them into our pockets and purses hoping and trying to create a connection that already exists, maintain a presence that is already eternal, and hang on to a love that is already immortal. We do this not only with one another but also with Christ. With each candy wrapper we collect we forget or maybe even deny that our lives embody the shared and mutual love of Christ and one another. In that love is the fullness of presence; a presence, the disciples will learn, that transcends time, distance, and even death.

At some point we must throw away the candy wrappers we hold on to so that we can hear, experience, and live the deeper truth. Our lives, our actions, our love carry and reveal the presence of divine love. Jesus does not give us something, he says we are something. We are the gift. We are the connection. Listen to what he tells the disciples:

  • I love you with the same love that the Father loves me. You have what I have.
  • I give to you the joy that my Father and I share. You are a part of us.
  • You are my joy, my life, and my purpose.
  • I want your joy to be full, complete, whole, and perfect.
  • You are my friends, my peers, my equals.
  • I have told you everything. Nothing is held back or kept secret.
  • I chose you. I picked you. I wanted you.
  • I appointed, ordained, commissioned, and sent you to bear fruit, to love another. I trust and believe you can do this.

It’s all about us in the best sense of those words. We are the love of Christ. Our belief in Jesus’ words changes how we see ourselves, one another, the world, and the circumstances of our lives. That belief is what allows us to keep his commandment to love one another. When we know these things about ourselves our only response is love. We can do nothing else. We are free to live and more fully become the love of Christ.

The challenge of our search is not to find the answers but to believe and live them. Who are we? The love of Christ. What are the connections that will sustain our lives? The love of Christ. Where is my place in this world? The love of Christ. In, by, with, and through the love of Christ “all shall be well, all shall be well, every manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich)


Reflection Excerpt from: Interrupting the Silence, Fr. Michael K. Marsh