Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily
Homily for the 5th Week of Easter, Thursday, 5-19-22, Year C
Readings: Acts 15:7-21; Psalm 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 10; Gospel Jn 15:9-11
Theme: Law vs. Love
Can you imagine a world without laws to guide society in the proper ways to live and interact with each other? It would most likely be chaos, the Wild West if you will. We need laws and rules to help us understand the dividing line between a self-serving ideal where a person does whatever pleases them with no regard for anyone or anything around them, vs. a community of persons helping and supporting each other, living, and sharing themselves for the betterment of the community. One way leads to loneliness and abandonment, the other to happiness and contentment.
In a perfect society, a self-serving attitude would be nonexistent, something they would not understand. Happiness would be the byproduct of the knowledge that their life is meant for the good of others. Through that service to others, the individual actually becomes fulfilled themselves because their life has meaning in making someone else’s life whole and complete.
We are far from a perfect society. As a matter of fact, it would appear that we are becoming more of the former, a self-serving society in which individuals have the right to do whatever they please, even if it infringes on another person (abortion for example). This is not what the Apostles or Christ taught. Sometimes our laws can do the opposite of their intended purpose. Instead of protecting people and caring for them as a community, they become self-serving, and we can lose sight of the benefits of being a community rather than a bunch of individuals.
Peter speaks of the love of Christ and that Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection on the cross were meant for all people, not just a few. Through Christ’s resurrection and His gift of the Holy Spirit, the laws of the old order were changed to allow for a new law of love. As with any group or committee, there are dissenters, people who do not want to change, who feel the old way is the only way. This was the case with the converted Pharisees who demanded that all Christians be circumcised per the Mosaic law.
The Holy Spirit set those dissenters straight in our reading today by making no distinction between Jew and Gentile. The Gift of the Spirit was for all, to help form the community of believers who have love for God, instead of laws. Now, it is not that the laws are no longer needed, no, they are needed but only where they coincide with God’s will for us. Forcing some of the old Mosaic laws on people who have no background or understanding at all of Jewish religious customs, should not be an impediment to the reception of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the kingdom of God.
Christ speaks of the same thing by saying, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” What is Jesus’s commandment? “Love one another as I have loved you.” If you do as Christ commands, you will gladly serve your neighbor, and in doing so, your joy will be complete.