Deacon Cornell’s Homily

Readings:    Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17
Date: May 5-6, 2018, Sixth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

I tell you all this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.

Many years ago I read this story in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. There was a very young girl in the hospital with a rare and serious disease. After investigating all the options, it became clear that her only chance for survival was for her to have a transfusion of blood from her 5 year old brother who had miraculously survived the very same disease and so had developed antibodies for it. The doctor explained the situation to the boy and ask him if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. With only a moment's hesitation he took a deep breath and said, "Yes I will do it if it will save my sister."

So they were both brought to the operating room, prepped and then hooked together for the transfusion. As it progressed the boy smiled as he saw the color returning to his sister's cheeks; but then he grew pale and as the smile faded from his face, he looked up at the doctor and asked, "Will I start to die right away?" Being only 5, he had misunderstood the doctor and thought he had been asked to give all his blood to his sister.

I remember thinking when I read that story if that little girl ever fought with her older brother as they grew up. Did she ever come to understand what her brother had done for her? How did she show her gratitude for what he had done?

Can you imagine having someone be willing to do that for you? What kind of gratitude would you have for that person? Well each of us has someone who was willing to do that for us, Jesus. So how do we understand that willingness of Jesus to give us all his blood so that we might have life? And eternal life at that. How do we show our appreciation, our gratitude? Jesus tells us what God expects when he gives us his one commandment: it is not just to love one another but to love one another as Jesus loves us. And how does Jesus love us: to death. And as Paul tells us, that is the only commandment we need; if we keep just that one commandment then all the other commandments, and church laws, and for the most part all our family and civil obligations will be met as well. My dear people, human beings were made in the image of our God who IS love. Acting any other way makes us less human, and results in pain and suffering for us, and usually a bunch of people around us. Jesus might have just as well said, I give you one commandment: act fully human.

As Jesus points out, no one has greater love than this: that he is willing to lay down his life for another. All we have to do is look around at the world, and our own lives to see how hard it is to keep that one commandment. And if we are made in the image of love what Jesus is saying is that being human is one of the hardest things we have to do. If we are to love one another as Jesus loves us, then we have to become more like Jesus. So that is why we are gathered here today.We get a start on that in baptism, but we need to keep coming week after week to deepen that transformation, to eat Jesus' preciouse body and drink his precious blood so that we might become what we eat and drink.

For a long time when I was young I got Jesus words from today's Gospel all backwards. When he said that if I keep his commandments I will remain in hist love, I took it to mean that keeping the commandments, being good, was what I need to do to earn Jesus' love. All you parents and godparents and foster parents here, don't you want your children to be good? But why? Is their being good something they have to do in order for you to love them? Of course not. You want them to be good because that is the best thing for them, so that they can become all that they were created to be, so they can be fully human. You love them in the hope that they will recognize and then respond to being loved by being loving themselves.

That's how God's love works. God chose us first. The way that we show that we recognize that love and appreciate that love, is to turn around and love one another, as Jesus loves us. So let us all respond to Jesus who was willing to give up all his blood so that we might live. Let us come forward for communion, realizing who it is that we eat and drink, and so become more fully the Body of Christ sent out into the world.

I tell you all this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.

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