Daily Homily: Remain in My Love

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

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Acts 15:7-21
Psalm 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 10
John 15:9-11

During the Last Supper, Jesus introduces his disciples into the deep mystery of Trinitarian love. In fact, the first line in today’s Gospel speaks about the love between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son; he is the one who draws Jesus’ disciples and us into this communion of love, which is the ultimate purpose of the Church’s mission.

Jesus teaches his disciples that, as the Son, he keeps the Father’s commandments and remains in his love. Jesus was empowered by the Spirit in his Passion to conform perfectly to the will of the Father and to maintain his solidarity with us even to the point of death (see Hebrews 9:12-14). Through his death, Jesus became the mediator of the New Covenant, having intervened for the redemption of the transgressions and violations of the law of the first covenant (Hebrews 9:15). In like manner, we remain in Jesus’ love by keeping his commandments. We too are empowered by the Spirit to love God and our neighbor.

The exhortation to keep his commandments is a part of the ratification of the New Covenant. Just as God gave the Law to the people of Israel as their covenant responsibility, so Jesus now gives the New Law to his disciples. We are enabled to keep the New Law, the new commandment of love, through his grace. This New Covenant can never be broken, since it has been forged by the blood of the Son, who was faithful to the end.

One of the fruits of the New Covenant and of abiding in Jesus is joy. This joy is the joy of Jesus himself: «a joy sought and found in obedience to the Father and in the gift of self to others» (Pope Saint John Paul II, 25 July 2002). Saint Paul teaches that joy, love and peace are all fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). The Holy Spirit infuses into our hearts the same joy that Jesus had «the joy of faithfulness to the love which comes from the Father» (Pope Saint John Paul II, 19 June 1991).

According to the Acts of the Apostles, joy lasted even during trials: the disciples were known to rejoice under persecution. We can even say that true joy lasted throughout the Council of Jerusalem. The Council’s debates, discussions and discernment all took place in the context of prayer and Christian charity. The Apostles and elders earnestly sought the will of God and sought to understand the signs and wonders God worked through them among the Gentiles.

At the Council of Jerusalem, Peter affirms that both Jews and Gentiles receive the gift of salvation through faith and the grace of Christ, and not through circumcision and the yoke of the Old Law. To demand that the Gentiles submit to the sign of circumcision and the Old Law would mean putting God to the test (like the Israelites in the desert) and would only place a yoke of burden on the Gentiles.

James agrees with Peter: «we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God». But James also teaches that, in accord with the law (Leviticus 17:8-18:30), the Gentiles should refrain from three things: eating meat sacrificed to pagan gods; sexual immorality; and eating meat with blood in it or meat from animals not properly drained of blood.

James quotes the prophet Amos who foretells of the day when God will rebuild the fallen hut of David. As a descendant of David, Jesus accomplished this restoration. What is more, this restoration would signal the day when all nations, including the Gentiles, would seek the Lord and be welcomed into his people. They are welcomed not with the burden of the Old Law, which could not save, but with the grace and love of Jesus Christ, which does save.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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