Miracle on the River Kwai

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During the Second World War Dr. Ernest Gordon, later Chaplain of Princeton University, was a prisoner of war in Thailand. In his book, Through the Valley of the Kwai, he reflects on the difference between two Christmas seasons he spent in prison.

During the Christmas season of 1942 there were thousands of American soldiers in that prison who robbed the sick among them, mistreated one another, and did not care whether the other prisoners lived or died. During the following year, a healthy American soldier began giving his food to a sick buddy to help him get well. In time the sick prisoner recovered, but the buddy who had given him food died of malnutrition.

The story of the man who sacrificed his life to save a buddy made the rounds of the camp. Some of the prisoners remarked that he was a lot like Christ. Some of the soldiers began to recall passages from the Bible they had learned years earlier under far different circumstances. One of the passages stated,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Some who were Christians took heart and began to witness to other men. The prisoners began to ask about Christ and to meet for Bible study. When they began to know Christ as Lord the entire atmosphere in the camp changed from despair and desperation to hope and compassion.

When Christmas of 1943 arrived, Dr. Gordon said, 2000 prisoners assembled for worship. They sang carols and someone read the story of the birth of Jesus from a Gospel account. Much more was different. In spite of their hunger, prisoners who were well shared food with the sick to help them gain strength faster. They cared for one another. They agreed that the difference came about because of faith in Christ and people who lived his love in the midst of unloving circumstances. The choices they made were for righteousness and not evil.

Laying down one’s life for  friends

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In 1941, the German Army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, the lives of at least 250 Jews were spared. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942.

It took Germany almost sixty years to honor the memory of this man, Schmid. Said Germany’s Defense Minister in 2000, saluting him,

“Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist.”

This is the central of theme of today’s Gospel. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers. (Fr. James Gilhooley). Fr. Bobby Jose.

The Centurion Card

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A few years ago American Express quietly introduced its most exclusive new card (with an annual fee of $5,000/year). The Centurion Card is absolutely black, and is actually made out of titanium – the hardest known naturally occurring metal. In fact, when one of these titanium Centurion Cards expires, the member has to send it back to American Express for recycling. The titanium can’t be cut up or shredded. Besides, titanium is too valuable to be thrown away.

Jesus introduces and invokes a whole new mindset, heartset, and soulset, into the universe. Jesus established The Titanium Rule. Anyone figure out what it is? Here’s a hint: you find it in his understatement in this morning’s text, “It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher.” The Titanium Rule does not focus on “doing;” it focuses on “being” and on “loving.” Jesus commands his followers, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

The Whisper Test

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Mary Ann Bird wrote a short story entitled The Whisper Test.” It is a true story from her own life. “I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I must look to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech. “When schoolmates would ask, ‘What happened to your lip?’ I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me. There was, however, a teacher in the second grade that we all adored — Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy — a sparkling lady. Annually, we would have a hearing test. I was virtually deaf in one of my ears. But when I had taken the test in past years, I discovered that if I did not press my hand as tightly upon my ears as I was instructed to do, I could pass the test. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something and we would have to repeat it back … things like, ‘The sky is blue’ or ‘Do you have new shoes?’ I waited there for those words. But God put into her mouth seven words which changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, ‘I wish you were my little girl.’”

Don’t bug me! Hug me!” 

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One man who believes this strongly went around giving hugs to all sorts of people. Challenged to come to a home for the disabled, he hugged people, who were terminally ill, severely retarded or quadriplegic. Finally he came to the last person, Leonard, who was wearing a big white bib, on which he was drooling. Overcoming his initial reluctance, the man took a deep breath, leaned down and gave Leonard a hug. All of a sudden Leonard began to squeal, “Eeehh! Eeeehh!” Some of the other patients in the room began to clang things together. The man turned to the staff- physicians, nurses and orderlies for some sort of explanation, only to find every one of them was crying. To his enquiry, “What’s going on?” the head nurse said, “This is the first time in twenty-three years we have ever seen Leonard smile.”

In the Gospel we are once again reminded of the outgoing nature of God, because of which He continues to love us and share His spirit with all peoples. (Harold Buetow, God Still Speaks: Listen! Quoted by Fr. Botelho).

Christian symbiosis

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The Oxford Encyclopedia English Dictionary defines symbiosis as “a mutually interactive relationship between two living things, usually to the advantage of both.” The created universe is rife with fascinating examples of symbiotic relationships.

  • For instance, the rhinoceros has very poor eyesight. But its tough hide is infested with ticks which are a delicacy to a certain small bird which rides on its back, feasting on the insects and alerting the rhino to danger.
  • Similarly, both the ratel, or honey badger, and the honey-guide bird are fond of honey, which they hunt together. With its keen eyes, the little bird easily finds the beehive and the ratel’s powerful claws tear it open, making the honey available to both.
  • Among sea creatures, the pinna, a blind slug or snail is threatened by many predators, the worst of which is the cuttle-fish. No sooner does the pinna dare to open its bivalve shell than the cuttle-fish rushes in and devours it. Happily, the keen-eyed crab-fish is a constant companion of the pinna. Both live together in the pinna’s shell. When the pinna is hungry, it opens its valves and sends out its roommate to secure food. If an enemy is near, the crab-fish dashes back to its blind protector who quickly closes the valves once its symbiont is inside. If food can be secured without danger, the crab-fish returns to the shell, makes a gentle noise at its opening, is admitted by the pinna and the two share the feast together.

God has created human beings to be symbionts for one another. The relationship to which God calls us in Christ is to be characterized by a mutuality in which each and all of us can grow and thrive. When he lived in human flesh and walked among us, Jesus explained that such a relationship is possible for those who love God and keep the commandments. As today’s second reading and Gospel are read, believers are once again reminded of Jesus’ teaching, that we, who are beloved of God, are to love one another, freely, fully. Jesus proved the depths of his love and that of God for humanity by laying down his life so that we might live. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez).

God’s love in action

When Fr. Damien arrived in Molokai to assemble a prefabricated Church for the lepers, he spent the first few weeks sleeping out under the trees, because he was unable to cope with the stench in the hovels of the lepers. He certainly wouldn’t dare preach to them about God’s love for them, because, as they saw it, that would be offensive. But slowly he opened his heart to the grace of God which enabled him to see the suffering Jesus in them. In no time, he was washing them, bandaging them, and burying them. He came to love them, and, through him, they came to believe that God loved them.

He smoked a pipe to counteract the stench, but he soon was passing the pipe around for others to have a smoke. He ate food with them from a common bowl, out of which they scooped the food with hands that had no fingers. He caught the disease himself, and he was happy to be able to live and to die for them.

St. Damien followed Jesus’ commandment of love given in today’s Gospel: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Carrying a burden alone

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian, theologian, musician, and physician was eighty-five years old when I visited his jungle hospital at Lambarene, on the banks of the Ogowe River. One event stands out in a special way. It was eleven in the morning. The equatorial sun was beating down mercilessly, and we were walking up a hill with Dr. Schweitzer. Suddenly he left us and strode across the slope of the hill to a place where an African woman was struggling upward with a huge armload of wood for the cook fires. I watched with both admiration and concern as the eighty-five-year-old man took the entire load of wood and carried it on up the hill for the relieved woman. When we all reached the top of the hill, one of the members of our group asked Dr. Schweitzer why he did things like that, implying that in that heat and at his age he should not. Albert Schweitzer, looking right at all of us and, pointing to the woman, said simply, “No one should ever have to carry a burden like that alone.”

Dr. Albert Schweitzer not only believed but practiced Jesus’ great commandment of love given in today’s Gospel: “Love others as I have loved you.” [Andrew Davidson, quoted by Fr. Botelho)].

“Terminal hospital” in London

There is a special hospital in London for those whom other hospitals consider a lost cause. It is a hospital for those who are diagnosed as “terminal.” Most people would consider such a hospital to be a very sad place, but it is not. Actually, it is a hospital filled with hope and a lot of life. The emphasis in this London hospital is on life and not on death. The truth is that several of the patients have seen remissions in the disease process instead of death. A great deal of the credit is given to the way the facility is run.

The basic philosophy is different from most other hospitals. In this program the patients are expected to give themselves away in service to the other patients. Each patient is given another patient for whom to care. So, for example, a person who is unable to walk might be given the task of reading to another who is blind. The blind person would then push the wheelchair of the one who could not walk but who gives directions on where to push the chair. Is this not the new commandment to which Jesus referred? He calls us to be disciples who love one another. We are the ones who are healed and strengthened when we learn how to give and how to love. [Bruce Larson, Passionate People (Dallas: Word Publishers), p. 203.].

Beauty and the Beast

G. K. Chesterton once said that the really great lesson of the story of “Beauty and the Beast” is that a thing must be loved before it is loveable.  A person must be loved before that person can be lovable. Some of the most unlovely people I have known got that way because they thought that nobody loved them. The fact of the matter is that unless, and until, we feel ourselves loved, we cannot love. That’s not only a principle of theology but of psychology and sociology as well. Just as abused children grow up to abuse their children, loved children grow up to love their children. Loved persons are able to love. Unloved persons are not.

Christianity says something startling. It says that God loves and accepts us “just as we are.” Therefore, we can love and accept ourselves and, in so doing, love and accept others. That is what Jesus commands us to do in today’s Gospel by challenging us to love others as he has loved us.

Transformation of a surgeon with Tourette’s Syndrome

Some years back, neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a fascinating vignette of an intriguing neurological difficulty. As some of you know, Tourette’s Syndrome is a bizarre physiological disorder that causes victims to have any number of physical and verbal tics. Some Tourettic people have constant facial twitches, others find themselves uncontrollably uttering verbal whoops, beeps, and sometimes also raunchy swear words.

One man with Tourette’s whom Dr. Sacks knew was given to deep, lunging bows toward the ground, a few verbal shouts, and also an obsessive-compulsive type adjusting and readjusting of his glasses. The kicker is that the man is a skilled surgeon! Somehow and for some unknown reason, when he dons mask and gown and enters the operating room, all of his tics disappear for the duration of the surgery. He loses himself in that role and he does so totally. When the surgery is finished, he returns to his odd quirks of glasses adjustment, shouts, and bows.

Sacks did not make any spiritual comments on this, of course, yet I find this doctor a very intriguing example of what it can mean to “lose yourself” in a role. There really can be a great transformation of your life when you are focused on just one thing focused to the point that bad traits disappear even as the performing of normal tasks becomes all the more meaningful and remarkable. Something like that is our Christian goal as we travel with Jesus. Our desire is to love one another – to love the whole world finally, I suppose – as Jesus loved us. To do that, we need an infusion of a kind of love that does not arise naturally from the context of the world as we know it. So as we lose ourselves in Jesus and in being his disciples, we find even our ordinary day-to-day activities infused with deep meaning as a love from another place fills our hearts.

Where technology fails

Some time ago, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times about Howard Maxwell and his four-year-old daughter, Melinda. As children often do, Melinda developed a fixation on the story of “The Three Little Pigs.”

Every time her father came around, Melinda wanted him to read it to her. Well, for adults, a little “Three Little Pigs” goes a long way. The father, being both modern and inventive, got a tape recorder, recorded the story, and taught Melinda how to turn it on. He thought that had solved his problem. But it lasted less than a day.

Soon Melinda came to her father, holding out “The Three Little Pigs” and asking him to read. Somewhat impatiently, the father said, “Melinda, you have the tape recorder, and you know how to turn it on!” The little girl looked up at her father with her big eyes and said, plaintively, “Yes, daddy, but I can’t sit on its lap!”

Of course, what she really wanted was love. That is what we all want, and we never outgrow our need for it. To be valued, to be cared about, to be loved with a love without strings, a love that will always be there for us; I tell you, that is a foundation for our families that is strong enough to build upon!

“Hand me your papers”

French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935), tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other men, “Listen, Dominic, you’ve led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life, and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death.”

The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. Something wonderful happens to us when we are baptized. When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Jesus. We publicly declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God’s will for our lives. When we are baptized, our lives are changed. We see things differently now. We see other people differently. Baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now. We are able to identify with Jesus because we have been baptized into His death and live with His Life. And we are able to love as he loved. Such identification is life-changing. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us.

“The happiest day of my life.”

You have heard a bride say it. You have heard a new mother in the maternity ward say it. You have heard a graduating senior say it: “This is the happiest day of my life!” Some days are like that; they’re special. There are great days in all of our lives.

I wonder what was your most wondrous moment? For me such days are filled with extraordinary hope and joy. For me it was the birth of my daughter because it was shared with my wife and family. [state yours]. Life involves many happy affairs – the birth of a child, the gatherings of Christmas, a summer vacation. It is often said that to love and be loved is the greatest happiness in the world. For most of us, then, the most significant movement of hope and joy is our wedding day. It’s the day we celebrate before God and all our friends the love in our life. Marriage vows are the most profound vows one can make. No other vows are more tender; no other vows are more sacred. No other pledge will so radically shape and claim an individual. The two become one. A home is born. A haven for family is founded. Your place to be is created. But, alas, in too many marriages and in so many lives the wine fails.

“God, I ain’t got nothin’ against nobody.”

Anthony Campolo tells about a mountaineer from West Virginia who fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the town preacher. The gruff, tough man one evening looked deeply into the eyes of the preacher’s daughter and said, “I love you.” It took more courage for him to say those simple words than he had ever had to muster for anything else he had ever done. Minutes passed in silence and then the preacher’s daughter said, “I love you, too.” The tough mountaineer said nothing except, “Good night.” Then he went home, got ready for bed and prayed, “God, I ain’t got nothin’ against nobody.”

Many of us know that feeling. To love and to be loved, what joy that simple emotion brings into our lives! Then to realize that the very nature of God is Love is almost more than you or I can comprehend. No wonder, Jesus’ greatest commandment for his followers is “Love one another as I have loved you.”

“Dad couldn’t remember which one of us was adopted.”

One time a Sunday school superintendent was registering two new sisters in Sunday School. When she asked them how old they were one replied, “We’re both seven. My birthday is April 8th and my sister’s is April 20th.” That superintendent replied, “That’s impossible girls.” The other sister then spoke up and said, “No it’s true. One of us is adopted.” “Oh,” the superintendent said. “Which one?” The two sisters looked at each other, and one said, “We asked Dad that question a while ago, but he just looked at us and said that he loved us both equally, so much so that he couldn’t remember which one of us was adopted.” (from God’s Little Lessons on Life for Women, Honor Books).

That is a wonderful analogy for the love of God. God loves us all, equally. We are loved, not because we have earned God’s love or deserve it, but because of God’s grace.

Zacchaeus the tax collector

In later years, he rose early every morning and left his house. His wife, curious, followed him one morning. At the town well he filled a bucket, and he walked until he came to a sycamore tree. There, setting down the bucket, he began to clean away the stones, the branches, and the rubbish from around the base of the tree. Having done that, he poured water on the roots and stood there in silence, gently caressing the trunk with both of his hands. When his amazed wife came out of hiding and asked what he was doing, Zacchaeus replied simply, “This is where I found Christ.”

I can just imagine that for the rest of their lives, that woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe that day on the street and the daughter of Jairus who was raised up in that room in her home, continually brought people back to those sacred spots and said, “This is where I found Christ! This is where Christ loved me into life!” Do you have a sacred spot like that? This is the Good News of our Christian Faith, isn’t it? Love has the power to heal, to reconcile, and to redeem.

“He is very fond of me.”

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest, who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, saw an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest said to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looked up from his prayers, thought a moment, and then stated with a broad smile, “Yes, He’s very fond of me.” Manning has a slogan to introduce himself to others: “I am the one Jesus loves.” He has borrowed this meaningful phrase from the Gospel where Jesus’ closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, is identified as “the one Jesus loved.” Manning says, “If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,’ but rather, ‘I am the one Jesus loves.’”

Today’s Gospel and the second reading remind us that our primary identity in life as Christians should be “the one Jesus loves,” precisely because we keep his commandment, “Love one another as I love you.”

“Because you are precious in my sight, I love you.”

Harold Hughes was a United States Senator and a former Governor of Iowa. God drastically changed his life. He was a hopeless alcoholic, wallowing in his own vomit, and so despairing that he was ready to take his own life away. He was uncontrollably addicted to alcohol. He reached a point where his wife and children left him and he lost his job. One day he ended up drunk, sitting in his bathtub with the barrel of a gun in his mouth and his finger on the trigger. Then he fortunately cried out to God. Immediately, he felt a spreading sense of peace within that delivered him from the crises of the moment. Through much struggle and pain, God led him along until he was at last free from the grip of alcohol. He eventually became the governor of his state and a United States senator.

We may be unwanted by people; we may be rejected and shunned by people but: we are wanted by God; we are worthy, we are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “Because you are precious in my sight, I love you (43:4)” After Mother Theresa received the Noble Prize, someone asked her, “How can we solve the world’s problems.” She replied, “Go home and love one another.” The thing that is destroying the world today is: hatred and intolerance. It is only love, which can save the world from destruction. And love shall be the only thing that is eternal. [John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]

True love in dangerous

Rita was dying of a disease from which her nine-year old brother, Richard, had just recovered. The surgeon said to Richard. “Only a transfusion of your blood will save your sister. Are you ready to give her your blood?” Richard was terrified but finally said, “OK, Doctor!” After the transfusion, Richard asked quietly, “Doctor, when will I die?” It was only then that the doctor understood Richard’s fear: he thought that by giving his blood he would die for Rita. Is our love a ready-to-die love?”

Little Richard was ready to die for Rita. And many mothers daily sacrifice so much so that their children might live fully. But what about our larger family, the world? We have a glowing example of a ready-to-die love in Indian social activist Medha Patkar, who sacrificed a flourishing legal career in Mumbai to work for the rights of tribals. She was accused of ‘Attempted suicide’ since her fast against the height of the Narmada Dam was seen as potentially dangerous to the powers that be. True love is dangerous! [Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).]

I loved those boys!

A college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future. In every case the students wrote “He does not have a chance.” Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to these boys. With the exception of twenty boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors and businessmen. The astounded professor decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, all the men were in the area, and he was able to ask each, “How do you account for your success?” In each case the reply came with feeling, “There was a teacher.” The teacher was still alive, so he sought her out and asked the old but still alert lady what magic formula she had used. Her eyes sparkled and her lips broke into a gentle smile. “It is really simple,” she said. “I loved those boys.”

In today’s Gospel we read Jesus’ great commandment: I command you, love one another. (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks: Listen! Quoted by Fr. Botelho).

101 Ways to Say I Love You

Here are some of them: Watch the sunset together; Cook for each other; Hold hands; Buy gifts for each other; Hugs are the universal medicine; say ‘I love you’ and mean it; Give random gifts of flowers/roses/candy, etc; Tell her that she’s the only woman you ever want, don’t lie; spend every second possible together; look into each other’s eyes; Put love notes in their pockets when they are not looking; Buy her a ring; sing to each other; Read to each other; PDA (Public Display of Affection); Take her to a dinner and do the dinner for two deal; Dance together; Tell each other your most sacred secrets or fears; Go to Church/worship together; Learn from each other and don’t make the same mistake twice;  Everyone deserves a second chance; Describe the joy you feel just to be with her; make sacrifices for each other; Dedicate songs to them on the radio; always remember to say, ‘sweet dreams.’

Anecdotes on this page compiled by Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.



Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

In the first reading, Peter teaches us that God shows no partiality in His love and that there are no boundaries to abiding in love. God loves everyone, both the Jews and the Gentiles, and wants everyone to be saved through His son Jesus. That is why God welcomed the Roman centurion Cornelius as the first non-Jew to become a Christian. The reading tells us how God also allowed the Gentiles who heard Peter’s speech to receive the same Holy Spirit and His gifts that Peter’s Jewish audience had received on the day of Pentecost.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 98) also directs our attention toward God’s marvelous love and kindness in offering salvation to the whole world.

In the second reading, John defines God as love and explains that He expressed His love for mankind by sending His son to die for us humans “as expiation for our sins.” This Divine love gives us the command as well as duty to love one another as we have been loved by God. Since God has loved us first, we can and should love God in return, love ourselves properly, and love one another.

In the Gospel, after telling the parable of the vine and branches in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the disciples that they are to remain in a living bond with him as branches grow from and so are bound to a vine. They are to obey his commandment of love just as he has obeyed his Heavenly Father’s will, by fulfilling His commandments and remaining inseparably One with his Father. Jesus’ unconditional, forgiving, selfless, sacrificial love for us must be the criterion of our love for others. The highest expression of this love is our willingness to lay down our lives as Jesus did, for people who don’t deserve it. The goal and result of our abiding in love, in God, will be perfect joy. Jesus calls us friends; he tells us that he has chosen us, and that, if we use his Name, we can ask the Father for anything



One of the early Church’s first struggles was to decide whether God was calling the early Christians to be a sect entirely within Judaism, or one that extended outward and welcomed others who believed in Jesus. The decision to yoke the Jews and the Gentiles together was a tough one for the Judeo-Christians and a welcome sign for the converts from pagan religions. In today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we see the start of the process. The episode begins earlier in Acts, in Chapter 10, where Peter and the Roman centurion Cornelius (a good pagan), are given interlocking visions. Acts describes how the Heavenly messenger instructed Cornelius to send to Joppa for Peter. In a trance, Peter heard a Voice bidding him to eat non-kosher foods. Peter called this unthinkable, but the Voice insisted that what God had purified no one might call unclean. The worldwide Gentile mission was later to begin with this formerly pagan centurion. The Holy Spirit, guiding the Church, would use Cornelius to assist Paul in transforming the early Church from an exclusively Jewish establishment to a dominantly Gentile and western European reality.

During his meeting with Cornelius, Peter made a speech giving Cornelius and his pagan household and friends the assurance that everyone “who fears Him is acceptable to God” and “God shows no partiality.” As they all received the anointing of the Holy Spirit while listening to Peter’s preaching, Peter ordered them to be baptized then and there. This story teaches three lessons: 1) Authentic changes must be expected as part of the Church’s ongoing mission under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 2) New directions result ultimately from the Holy Spirit’s guidance rather than from merely human decisions. 3) The ecclesiastical leadership has the right and obligation to teach and carry out Divinely willed new instructions.



This passage contains the greatest single statement about God in the whole Bible, namely, God is Love. This statement means that (i) Love has its origin in God (1 Jn 4:7). According to Clement of Alexandria, the real Christian “practices being God.” God is love and, therefore, to be like God and be what he was meant to be, man must also love. (ii) Love has a double relationship to God. It is only by knowing God, and in this “knowing” He always takes the initiative in loving us first, that we learn to love Him and it only by loving God that we learn to know Him (1 Jn 4:7-8). In other words, love comes from God first, and His love received leads us back to God. (iii) It is by love that God is known, and the best demonstration of God comes, not from argument, but from a life of love. (iv) God’s love is demonstrated in Jesus Christ (1 Jn 4:9). When we look at Jesus we see two things about the love of God. (a) It is a love which holds nothing back (even giving His Son in sacrifice). (b) It is a totally undeserved love because God loves poor and disobedient creatures like us. (v) God’s love also explains many things: (a) It explains creation (God wants to love someone who can love Him back). (b) It explains free-will. Unless love is a free response it is not love. (c) It explains Providence. Since God is love, His creating act is followed by His constant care. (d) It explains redemption. The very fact that God is love meant that He had to seek and save that which was lost. He had to find a remedy for sin. (e) It explains the life beyond. The fact that God is love makes it certain that the chances and changes of life do not have the last word and that His love will readjust the balance of this life. (vii) This passage also teaches us that Jesus is: (a) the bringer of life, (b) the restorer of the lost relationship with God, (c) the Savior of the world (1 Jn 4:14) and (d) the Son of God (1 Jn 4:15).



We need to choose loving obedience in order to experience the abiding love of God

“There can be no doubt that love is the overarching thread which ties together this Sunday’s Gospel— in various forms, the word is used eleven times in this passage, both as the verb agapaô (“to love”) and as the noun agápê (love). Jesus reminds the apostles that the ultimate expression of love (and especially Christian love, agápê) lies in self-sacrifice for others” (Dr. Watson).

Today’s Gospel reading comes from the middle of Jesus’ so-called “Farewell Discourse,” a lengthy section (Jn 14—17). It is the heart-to-heart, after-dinner “table-talk” of Jesus with his disciples.
Today’s Gospel reading comes from the middle of Jesus’ so-called “Farewell Discourse,” a lengthy section (Jn 14—17). It is the heart-to-heart, after-dinner “table-talk” of Jesus with his disciples. Fundamentally, the first half of chapter 15 is about love: the love of God for Jesus, the love of Jesus for his disciples and the love of the disciples for Jesus. Verse 9 declares that there is no distinguishing difference between the love of the Father for the Son and that which the Son has for his chosen disciples. But, even though this love is steadfast and sure, it is also a love that may be lost. Thus, Jesus urges his disciples to “abide” or “remain” in his love.

The “condition” for receiving and keeping this unconditional love is spelled out in verse 10 – “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” The disciples must receive and respond to Jesus’ love by keeping his commandments, if they are to be able to continue receiving Jesus’ love. There is both respect and freedom for the disciples’ chosen actions implicit in this design.

But Jesus next reminds his followers that he, too, has been free to act in obedience or disobedience to his Father’s commandments, and he has offered himself as a model of obedience and abiding love. Indeed, the “joy” Jesus goes on to speak of in verse 11 is the joy that he knows as a result of his absolute obedience to the Father, and the perfect unity they share. Thus, Jesus urges his disciples to choose obedience and to experience his abiding love so that they may also experience this kind of total joy.

The new commandment

Jesus clarifies the second of His two-commandment summary of the Torah’s Ten Commandments, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” as one short sentence “Love one another,” with an added, specific and intimidating parameter, “as I have loved you.” “Love one another” is in the present imperative state, grammatically testifying to Jesus’ moral intent – that this be a continuous, ever-present love. “As I have loved you,” means a selfless, sacrificial, forgiving, and serving love. It is not the feel-good self-indulgent love that TV commercials push, but a selfless, self-giving love — the kind of love that God has shown for us, the kind of love that led Jesus to the cross for us. According to Dr. Murray Watson, “Love one another as I have loved you”: the Greek adverb “as” can be understood here in two distinct but related ways. It can mean “Love one another in the same way as I have loved you”; it could also mean “Love one another since I have loved you, because I have loved you”. We can understand Jesus’ love both as our model and as our motivation. If we are conscious of just how much love Jesus has showered upon us, the only appropriate response is to love in return, and to love by following His example. He is both our inspiration and our role-model.

The joy

The theme of “joy” is introduced here in verse 11. Jesus’ “joy” comes from a relationship of perfect obedience to the Father and the unity that the Father and Son therefore share. But even this joy can be expanded. It can be made more “complete.” “Completed” or “fulfilled” joy (also used in 3:29) is accomplished when Jesus’ disciples enter into the obedient, loving relationship between the Father and the Son by their own loving obedience.

“Bearing “fruit that will remain” (John 15:9-17) “

Bearing fruit” is an easy image. A healthy branch of a fruit tree will do what it is intended to do: i.e., produce good fruit by being attached to a healthy tree. Using this metaphor, Jesus is saying that a “healthy disciple” must DO what Jesus intends ALL good disciples to do – manifest good “fruit,” the results intended by Jesus that come from being “attached to” Jesus. The example is modeled by Jesus himself: he shared everything with his followers, and even willingly gave up his life for them – the deepest expression of love available to a human. One of the fruits of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22-23). The “fruit” that Jesus wants to be seen in the life of every one of his disciples is Love. In fact, Jesus commands his followers to manifest this love at all times, and that love is expressed in the way they care for one another within the community. That is how we “remain on the tree” of life forever! (Bishop Clarke).

Not slaves but friends

Jesus tells his followers that he does not call them slaves anymore but calls them friends. In the Bible, doulos, the slave, the servant of God was no title of shame; it was a title of the highest honor. Moses was the doulos of God (Deuteronomy 34:5); so was Joshua (Joshua 24:29); so was David (Psalm 89:20). It is a title which Paul counted it an honor to use (Titus 1:1); and so did James (James 1:1). The greatest men in the past had been proud to be called the douli, the slaves of God. But Jesus says: “I have something greater for you yet. You are no longer slaves; you are friends.” Christ offers an intimacy with God which not even the greatest of men knew before Jesus came into the world. The idea of being the friend of God also has a Biblical background. Abraham was the friend of God (Isaiah 4 1: 8). In Wisdom 7: 27, Wisdom is said to make us the friends of God. In Rome in the first century, the Friends of the king, or the emperor, were those who had the closest and the most intimate connection with him. Jesus has called us to be his friends and the friends of God. Jesus has given us this intimacy with God, so that He is no longer a distant stranger, but our close friend.

Discipleship by Divine selection

The unmerited quality of this Divine friendship is further emphasized by Jesus’ declaration in verse 16, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” Discipleship comes about by Divine choice, not by human merits and actions. The prescribed outcome of this choice is the disciples’ ability now to go out and “bear fruit,” bear abiding fruit. The love, the friendship that comes from Christ is tangibly manifested in the disciples’ lives. Verse 16 concludes that, as friends of Jesus, the disciples have access to virtually unlimited power. They have only to invoke Jesus’ name, and God will respond. The phrase “in my Name” denotes a prayer context, as well as suggesting that invoking Jesus’ Name makes manifest the very presence of Jesus himself. Today’s text concludes by setting the stage for the reason that the “world” hates Jesus’ disciples. Disciples of Jesus do, in fact, love one another. The power of Christ’s love and friendship in no way negates the reality of this world’s ability to hate. That is why Jesus closes with a clear command that we must love one another, and even love those who hate us. “UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur. Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum. Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero “(“WHERE charity and love are, God is there. Christ’s love has gathered us into one. Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him. Let us fear and let us love the living God. And may we love each other with a sincere heart”). (From the traditional chant for the Washing of the Feet, Mass of the Lord’s Supper).

“All you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (Jn 15:16)

This is not “prosperity gospel” (!) because the sentence immediately preceding the one quoted above, Jesus told his disciples that he chose them to “go forth and bear fruit.” So, in this context we are talking about mission work, about continuing the mission of Jesus. By virtue of (and empowered by), our Baptism and Confirmation, we are called to spread the Good News – to participate in the mission of Jesus Christ our Savior. Jesus is promising that every gift we need for this mission will indeed be given to us. In fact, attempts at fulfilling our mission will fail if we do not first seek the help of the Lord. We are talking about spiritual gifts, gifts from the Holy Spirit, the gifts needed to build up the Body of Christ. So a request for a Cadillac or a Hummer would not fall under the umbrella of that mission-oriented promise of Jesus! Normally our mission is not to leave for some far-off continent to evangelize. Instead, our mission area is our neighborhood, workplace, and home. This is where we spread the Good News of the love and mercy of Christ, which he manifested fully by laying down his own life for our redemption! (Bishop Clarke).

From the traditional chant for the Washing of the Feet, Mass of the Lord’s Supper

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur. Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum. Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero. WHERE charity and love are, God is there. Christ’s love has gathered us into one. Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him. Let us fear, and let us love the living God. And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

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