Decafeinated Christianity Sunday Readings
Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2013 (6EasterC)
By Fr. James Gilhooley
Podcast of the Sunday Readings
Sunday Bible Study Questions
Lecturas y Comentarios
New American Bible
Prayer of the Hours
Francis of Assisi, Arthur Tonne tells us, chanced upon a woman who told him she did not love God. She had no intention of ever obeying Him. As he and she walked along together, they passed a man who was both blind and crippled. Francis asked him, "Were I to give you sight and enable you to walk, what would your response be?" As you might imagine, the man said eagerly, "I would both love you and be your servant forever." Il Poverello turned to the woman and quietly queried, "You just heard him. He would both love me and obey me. Why then do you not cherish and obey the Almighty who has generously allowed you to both see as well as run if you choose?"
But the fact of the matter is God does ask us the same question every day. "Why do you not both love and obey me? Consider all I have given you all your life." On the face of it, there is no one of us who can take umbrage at the question. In the best possible scenario, we should bolt out of bed in the morning, crash down on the floor at risk of water on the knee, and pray with absolute conviction. What should we say? How about this for openers? "Dear God, once again my name is not in the Irish funny pages aka the obituary column. In gratitude, I will expend myself for you all day." As Robert Frost puts it, earth's the right place for love. The Swedes would remind us that those who wish to sing always find a song.
In today's Gospel, Jesus is clearly on the record saying, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments... Those who do not love me do not keep my words." Why should anyone of us be in a state of shock at this pronouncement? The Christ has been called many names by His enemies down the centuries, but no one ever called Him dumb.
And the sublime wordsmith Mr Shakespeare might well have had John 14 in mind when he wrote, "They do not truly love who do not show their love."
After all, every mother's child of us is, as someone has pointed out, a forgiven sinner. Much love and likewise obedience then should be justly expected from those to whom much love has been shown. Love then in this context is, in James Tahaney's incisive language, a four word synonym for grow.
Happily for us what the Teacher wants from us is written in black and white in the Ten Commandments. No matter from what angle one approaches these commandments, no matter how one shakes them, the color gray is never seen. One does get the distinct feeling that gray was the least favorite color of the Master.
There are some of us who think if we attend the Eucharist, we can be totally cavalier about the law of God. But such an approach will simply not wash. Even the curmudgeon who was George Bernard Shaw saw the fallacy in such an approach. He penned, "Beware of the man whose God is in the skies." Shaw would applaud the aphorism that teaches a hypocrite is a person who is not himself on Sunday.
We must establish our love by doing what God desires and fleeing, like a case of the swine flu, what He says is a forbidden. To profess love for God and forget His commands may be our idea of bliss, but it is not Christianity. Rather, it is the Gospel according to you and me. It is, in one man's terms, decaffinated Christianity. And one comes up with a faux Jesus.
Too many of us have developed the nasty habit of keeping the New Testament buried on our shelves instead of in our minds and hearts. Today's Gospel advises us not to be in that company. "Be smart enough," St John is saying to us today, "to learn from the mistakes of others. You may not live long enough to make them all yourself."
My Irish ancestors a long time ago wrapped today's Gospel up in a clever lyric. "Paddy Murphy went to Mass, never missed a Sunday. But Paddy Murphy went to hell, for what he did on Monday."
But do not lose heart. "God," said the pundit, "can make a great finish out of a slow start."