5th Sunday of Easter – May 14, 202
Knights of Columbus Statewide Convocation – Kalahari Resort
When I was in my second year of seminary formation, almost 43 years ago, my family moved to another home. It was in the same town and neighborhood, but the move required that my family – or at least I – would have to leave the only home that I had ever known, from the day I was brought home from the hospital following my birth and for the next 23 years of my life. I remember the events of that move like they were yesterday!
The move was to take place in early December. So at the conclusion of my time with my family during the Thanksgiving break, I said my “good-by” to the house that was my home, knowing that when I returned in a few weeks to be with my family for Christmas, I would join them in a different place. I can recall taking a solitary walk through the entire house, thinking about events of my life that unfolded in every space – from Christmas mornings in our living room – to birthday celebrations in our dining room – to the mischief that my friends and I would get into in our third floor attic on rainy days. And I clearly can recall wondering what it would be like moving to a different place. Would I feel at home? Or, because I was preparing for my life’s work and would never live in my family’s new home as much as I did in the one we were leaving, I wondered if I would feel like a visitor, just passing through.
Of course, all of my questions and concerns were for naught. My parents moved and I arrived at their new home for Christmas break a few weeks later. It was just about dinner time and it was already dark and cold outside. I rang the doorbell because my folks hadn’t yet presented me with a key to the new house and both of my parents came to the door to greet me. I quickly scanned what I could see of the new house to get a sense of what was going one. My dad had a fire burning in the living room fireplace that made the space feel warm and welcoming. I could smell my mother’s cooking in the kitchen. Both of my parents gave me a hug – and immediately their new house was my home.
While many years have passed from that first Christmas in my family’s new house and I’ve moved far more times than I care to admit, I learned a very important lesson about life in the experiences that I just shared with you. A good home has nothing to do with bricks and mortar and furniture. “Home” is much more about relationships with one another than anything else, isn’t it? In fact, about a dozen years ago when my mother moved to a smaller house after my father’s death, my sister and I presented her with a ceramic plaque that still hangs proudly on the wall in her kitchen. I reads, “Home is where your mom is.”
Home is indeed about relationships, isn’t it? But there is something so vital for us to remember as people of faith. This moment – this time of worship and prayer – is also about relationships. It is about our relationship with God born out in and through the lives that God weaves into our own.
Pope Francis has often expressed that Christianity in not so much a doctrine or a teaching but first, a relationship – a unique relationship with the living, risen Jesus! That relationship, brothers and sisters, is born of God’s initiative – not ours – and is fueled by Jesus’ selfless love and sacrifice on the cross. Recall another passage from Saint John’s gospel – John 3:16 – that captures the unique origin and source of our relationship with God! … “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Love – selfless, complete and unconditional – marks our identity as baptized disciples of the Risen Jesus. Jesus’ commandment of “love” is also meant to be the hallmark of his followers’ lives – of our lives – not merely through the words we profess but the relationships that we are given to nurture and sustain.
Today’s gospel takes place at the Last Supper. Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples and, following Judas’ departure from their midst, Jesus presents the remaining eleven with a new commandment – a new commandment of love. Yet, what could possibly be new about such a time-honored command?
What is new in this commandment is the model of selfless, sacrificial, forgiving love that Jesus proposes: a standard of love that transcends legalisms and measurements and that eschews self-righteousness and the tendency of those steeped in religious traditions – many of us – to point fingers at those they judge to be sinful; a standard of love that instead embraces and accepts every soul that recognizes its radical dependency upon the mercy and grace of God.
What is new in this commandment is an understanding of love that renews and re-creates all human relationships that has the potential to transform the most Godless and secular world view into the compassion and justice of God.
And what is new in this commandment is the freedom that we are given to set aside our fractured understanding of God that so often leads us to conclude that we must do grand and noble things to appease God and secure God’s attention and care and to instead simply trust that the God who created us and has given us life will embrace us in love as we are, not because we are prefect but because God is merciful and faithful.
And so, my brother Knights of Columbus and you, their spouses and families, may we open our hearts to the vision of love that Jesus proclaims this day. May it be a love that fills our relationships with our families, our friends and particularly the stranger with compassion, reconciliation, humility and selflessness. Most especially, may it be a love that enables others to recognize God’s love for them through our humble efforts to follow Jesus’ example and to make his new commandment our own.