Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
1st Reading: Acts 10 v 25-26, 34-35, 44-48
2nd Reading: 1John 4 v 7-10
Gospel: John 15 v 9-17
It doesn’t really help priests in writing their Sunday homily when the gospel reading in particular needs no further explanation. That was the case last Sunday and Our Lord’s parable of the vine and the branches. The whole point of a parable is that it shouldn’t need any further explanation because it’s self- explanatory – and in particular when the parable is being told by Jesus himself. There should be nothing left to say that he hasn’t said quite clearly already.
And we have a similar situation today – not a parable this time, but Our Lord’s very clear teaching concerning the commandment to love one another as God has loved us. There’s nothing I can add to that teaching that Our Lord in the gospel, and St John in our second reading, haven’t already said quite clearly.
What did occur to me to say just a few words about, was what St Peter said in the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles. “The truth I have now come to realise” he said “is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.” It reminded me of what Jesus said in the gospel two Sundays ago: “There are other sheep I have that not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well…and there will be only one flock and one shepherd.”
It’s a reminder for us that far from being possessive about our faith and our relationship with God, we should rejoice in the fact that the kingdom of heaven is open to everyone who comes to faith in God. Jesus is the principle way – he said so himself “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” – but other people are going to discover the way to salvation through perhaps less direct ways, and the kingdom of heaven is just as open to them as it is to us. Why would we be jealous about that? Rather, why wouldn’t we rejoice over the potential for salvation that is offered to everyone who recognizes and responds to the gift of faith they have received from God?
Far from sitting in judgment of anyone else’s worthiness, surely our primary concern should be in ensuring our own worthiness, and that we are not taking for granted the gift of faith we have received from God, and that we are doing all we can to ensure we are counted amongst those who are following the voice of the Good Shepherd, and who fear God and are doing what is right and acceptable to him?