Sunday Scripture Readings

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER,

MAY 18

Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22;

1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

OUR GOOD NEWS: The Church, community of diversity-in-unity, nurturing mother and life-line connecting us to Christ. "Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it." This opening sentence to our second reading is generally misunderstood as an attack on hypocrisy - phony religionists who prattle about neighbor love while hurting or neglecting one another. Rather, the author criticizes pious Christians comfortable with their (our) pet hatreds and indifferent uncaring, as though such attitudes were accepting behavior for those saved by Christ. "Show the truth of love in deeds!" Nor does Jesus advocate scrupulosity or encourage unhealthy guilt feelings. Everyone fails in living the sinless life to which we are called. "Peace" comes not from turning inward upon our imperfect selves but from focusing on God who knows us through and through and yet freely forgives us. Welcome Good News! God guarantees salvation to those who remain faithful within the Church, the community of love, even against accusations of one's heart. In fact, our lives are filled with concrete acts of caring - toward children and parents, relatives and neighbors, those we work with and for - so many who touch our lives, if only momentarily. And yet we worry whether we really love God as much as we ought! "His commandment is this: We are to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and are to love one another as He commanded us." A noted scholar suggested that this verse best summarizes the essence of Christianity, and another sees it as attacking extreme positions currently threatening the Church. Belief in Jesus is really faith in God His Father, who took the initiative by sending His Son. What we do comes after what God has already done, our neighbor-love continuing and extending God's love on a horizontal level. This verse thus refutes three extremes of ideological "right" and "left": (1) dogmatic conservatism, which makes creedal orthodoxy the only criterion, (2) fideism in which all that matters is "accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior," and (3) liberalism, which reduces Christianity to living peacefully with others. Concluding sentences address two further ancient and modern distortions of Christianity. First, to "keep (God's) commandments" demands far more than narrowly legalistic focus on rules and regulations. We are called to a transformed style of life flowing from mutual, intimate union of God and individual believers. We "abide" - are and remain "in Him"; He abides with - stays and works in, is constantly present and joined to - us. Secondly, personal assurance of salvation doesn't depend on intense religious experience (being "born again") or dramatic charismatic expressions among believers (speaking in tongues, healing, handling of poisonous snakes). We are saved because we are members of Christ the community gifted with God's "Spirit," the Spirit's presence corroborated by genuine loving concern for each other. We neither need nor expect religious "feelings" since God works quietly and unspectacularly for our salvation.

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