For the Sixth Sunday of Easter
We again hear Christ command us to practice a kind of love that can kill us, a love that does not feel good, a love that might cause us fear and sadness.
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 and I may feel at times that we’re never going to be saints.
When we feel like that, reading the life of St. Augustine can give us courage and hope.
St. Augustine took a long time just to turn in God’s direction.
Not only that!
Even after he had turned to God, he dragged his feet, and asked God not to work too quickly on him.
Augustine’s road to conversion and holiness was long, slow and hesitating.
Later in his life, he wrote a letter to God, and expressed regret for having taken so long.
That letter to God has some of the most famous words of St. Augustine.
Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!
In his Gospel today, our Lord speaks of the self-sacrificing love that he commands us to have for him and for each other.
He is explaining and describing the shape that our lives will have if we do love him and are faithful to him.
He says we are to remain in him.
He says we will remain in him if we keep his commandments.
He has also set a standard for keeping his commandments.
He is the standard.
In his teaching and example, he reveals that the greatest measure of love and fidelity is death.
His sacrifice of himself on the Cross is for us and for our salvation.
His self-sacrifice on the Cross is also for the Father.
It is Christ’s flesh and blood fulfillment of his own eternal, loving and obedient self-surrender to the Father.
The Father, for his part, also eternally opens and gives all that he is to the Son.
Their abiding, mutual self-giving is revealed to us as the Cross and the Resurrection.
That is what Christ means as he tells us in his Gospel today, “I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”
That same revelation on the Cross— the revealing of “God-who-hands-himself-over”— that revelation is present in the Eucharist also: the same Son of God ¬still in his human flesh and blood— laying down himself for us and for the Father.
In the resurrection, the Father shows that the love and the life he gives to his Son are everlasting.
In the resurrection, the Father hands over his eternal life to be the eternal life of his Son’s own humanity— our humanity.
Greater love has no one— and no other LIFE has God— than this: that he give his life for those he loves.
In the Mysteries of the Cross, the Resurrection and the Eucharist, even death and consumption give testimony to God’s abiding life and love.
As the Father loves me,
so I also love you.
I have told you this
so that my joy—
my joy in the Father’s love—
that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
These are mysteries that God has planted within us— mysteries that he gives us even to eat and drink.
We do not even begin to grasp the fullness of it all.
St. Augustine, in writing to God, said of himself before his conversion something that remains true for all of us, converted or not.
You, God, were within me,
but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness
I plunged into the lovely things that you created.
You were with me,
but I was not with you.
Whether we are ready or not, aware or not, faithful or not, God is always ready and always present entirely for us.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.