Homily – May 2

Have you ever had the experience of waiting and watching and praying as someone you love lay dying? They may have been in a coma or in and out of consciousness. You think every breath is their last but still they hand on. At last they slip away and it is over. If the person is conscious and somewhat alert his/her words are especially important. Often these last words express their love for the family, their concern that all will be well, ‘take care of your mother, take care of your father, and keep the family together’. Last words may be asking for forgiveness, understanding. But these final words are treasured, remembered and repeated by the person’s survivors.
As you know our gospel is taken from that long, last conversation Jesus had with this disciples at what we’ve come to know as ‘the last supper.’ At that supper he tried to distill all the things he’d taught over the last three years. These last words of Jesus were treasured, remembered and repeated by the first followers of Jesus. They are the source of our scriptures.
The intensity of the time these last words were spoken is best summed up in the simple phrase, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Imagine the hurt in the heart of Jesus as he saw Judas with whom he’d just broken bread go out into the night to begin his process of betrayal. Putting that disappointment aside Jesus offered his friends one last gift, one last ever important legacy: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ Then comes the clincher; ‘by this everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.’ Love for another is the acid test of our authenticity as Christian, our proof positive.
These are Christ’s final words to each of us, words to be treasured, remembered and especially lived. His words challenge us every day of life. Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus’ love for us was so profound, so authentic that he gave his life for us. This is my body broken for you, this is my blood shed for you. One can have no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend. St. Paul tells us that what proves Christ loves us is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Can we repeat that love in our daily living? We all know it isn’t easy. Sometimes we fail miserably. Sometimes we’ve held a grudge for years cutting someone out of our lives completely. Sometimes we’ve heard ourselves making racist or sexist jokes. Sometimes we’ve found ourselves resenting new neighbours, new parishioners who come from ‘God knows where’. Sometimes. By God’s grace, not all the time.
By this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. Remember I asked this question once before; “if you were arrested for being Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you”? That’s a rough question. Would we have to say guilty as charged? Or could we point to things in our lives – those cups of cold water we’ve offered to others at different times, could we point to attitudes and values we try to live, a growing respect for men and women of other faiths and cultures and life styles, a growing awareness of fragility and woundedness of creation, a greater concern for the poor and homeless of our community, could we point to our generosity to appeals for help from people in need? If we were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict us? Let’s hope so. We’re working on it every day of life. We’re trying to bear witness to our faith by what we say and what we do; we’re trying to live this Mass outside these walls. We’re trying.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that nourished by Jesus our Bread of Life we will be given the strength to live this new commandment – love one another as I have loved you.