May 19, 2019 | Fifth Sunday of Easter

This weekend I am away on vacation. For all the times I have visited California, I have never been to Yosemite National Park. It’s been on my “bucket list” ever since I watched the Ken Burns series on the history of our national parks. By the time you read this article I will have been there, as I flew to Sacramento on Wednesday and spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at the park. Saturday through this coming Thursday I will be…guess where? The wine country of Sonoma County visiting friends there. Today, I am celebrating Sunday Masses at St. John the Baptist parish in Healdsburg. See you next weekend!!

Some thoughts about today’s gospel…. “I give you a new commandment”….certainly love of one another was not something new – read Leviticus 19:18. But what was new was to love one another as JESUS loved. This is the astonishing difference in loving if we are to be Jesus’ disciples. Let’s look at the characteristics of Jesus’ love and ask ourselves if those characteristics can be seen in our love.

Jesus’ love was unconditional. While hanging on the cross in agony, he forgave those who crucified him. Mary’s husband Tom was an abusive alcoholic. To protect herself and her children, they divorced. Her ex continued on his downward path. When his alcoholism destroyed his liver, and he was down and out and needed help, Mary cared for him until he died. Like Jesus’ love, hers was unconditional.

Jesus’ love was sacrificial. His first great sacrifice was becoming human. Jesus accepted the limits of time and space to embrace our humanity so that he could save us. When Kay learned that her brother-in-law needed a kidney, she agreed to be tested. She was a match. Despite the fact that she had three young children, she donated her kidney to save his life. Like Jesus’ love, hers was sacrificial.

Jesus loved social as well as the rich leaders. Jesus’ love did not discriminate. Jesus dined with prostitutes and tax collectors – as well as with Jewish leaders, the Pharisees, and scribes. Chris passed by a homeless man every evening when he was on her way to the train station. One day he stopped and asked him what he needed. Wise or not, he brought him home for the night. Chris and his family helped someone whom others had rejected. Like Jesus’ love, theirs did not discriminate.

Jesus treated all as equals. Jesus healed lepers and the Roman centurion’s servant. He washed the feet of the disciples and healed the pagan woman’s daughter. Joey was six when he ran ahead of his parents while touring Chicago’s lakefront. When they caught up with him, he was sitting on a stoop, chatting with a homeless, toothless man. Both were smiling. Like Jesus, Joey not only treated this man as an equal, he truly believed they were equals.

Jesus’s love was compassionate. Jesus had compassion for the widow of Nain and raised her only son to life. Jesus saw a hungry crowd and multiplied loaves and fish to feed them. Many OLM parishioners volunteer at Hesed House to help the homeless. Like Jesus’ love, theirs is compassionate.

As we continue the Easter Season, I wish you joy!

Fr Don