Fifth Sunday of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 19, 2019

I am reminded of a story that I heard some time ago that went something like this:  A little girl was having an overnight at her Grandmother’s one night.  As they always did at night, they got into their nightgowns and snuggled into the bed for story time.  Grandma began telling the story she loved to tell the best: a story about the Kingdom of Heaven.  She described Jesus in a beautiful garden surrounded by flowers and trees and every kind, fragrance like the world has ever known.  Lambs and puppies and kittens played at the feet of Jesus while children sat on his lap and gazing into his beautiful, smiling face.  It couldn’t have been more perfect and the little girl was enthralled by the story.  But when Grandma asked if she would like to go there someday, the little girl paused answered: “O yes, Gramma, I would!  But ya know, I love mom very much; I’d like all of us to be together but I’m not sure she’s going to make it there. 

Isn’t that what love boils down to: the desire to be together, to be connected.

Jesus was facing the end of his earthly ministry; he tells his disciples that he will not be with them much longer.  There at the Last Supper he offers them his new and final command: love one another.  He could foresee their upcoming confusion and despair; he knew they could lose their way and retreat back into their old ways.  He could understand how they might scatter at the threat of persecution and the many challenges they would come to face.  What could he give them that would keep them together?  Three simple words of command:  love one another.

It was, in fact, the very same love that motivated God in the Incarnation and for the end-time, to dwell with his people. “They shall be his people, and he shall be their God who will always be with them.”  What underlies such a vision and yields such great promise?  That we love one another. 

The early Church found herself challenged with the ever increasing diversity of its members in far-apart cities and countries, with different languages and races and religious beliefs.  What motivated Peter and his companions to travel so far and risk so much?  What kept bringing them back home, and provided the motivation for such a great challenge? That they could remain as one Body of Christ.  And how might that happen?  Love - if they truly loved one another could they remain as one.

As a priest and pastor, the greatest challenge I find in my ministry is not balancing the budget or keeping up a crazy schedule (or even running a respectable 5K).  The greatest challenge is keep you, my family of faith that has been entrusted to me, united.  As parents and brothers and sisters of families, don’t you find the same?  Because we know that somehow, no matter what other challenge we face, if we face it together, we’ll get through it.   

As friends and lovers, as members of the church or of religious communities, as employees and employers, as citizens of this country and members of our global family, is there any greater threat to our future than division?  It is not age or temperament, color or creed, talents or disabilities, sexual orientation or criminal record.  No, it’s division.  We are nothing if we are not united. 

And the means to such a great challenge is simple:  That we love one another.

 

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