Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter


This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.


I know a Franciscan who, during the closing years of the Cold War, smuggled religious literature to our friars behind the Iron Curtain. The Communist regimes by that time were demoralized; and underpaid border guards routinely demanded bribes from those who passed through their portals. They took sops from smugglers, business people, tourists and other visitors, without particular regard to their differences.
This friar took his chances, not paying the bribes but trusting the Lord to get him through. He might have been arrested and detained until more money changed hands. In fact, he was not arrested. Perhaps some guards secretly shared his religious beliefs; others took no for an answer; and others passed him through to put the squeeze on the next tourist. In any case, he practiced a form of laying down "one's life for one's friends." Had the law been enforced he might have suffered many years in an eastern bloc prison.
The real test of religion, as we all know, is not what you say but what you do. What you must do, specifically, is "love one another." In his First Letter, Saint John explains this principle,
"...if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin." 
The Holy Spirit gathers us into congregations and enables us to love one another. Without that Spirit we cannot endure the challenge of Church. Without the Spirit some people attempt to bully and boss around their fellow Christians. If they are pastors they're particularly bothersome. Without the Spirit others meekly allow themselves to be exploited, abused and ignored. Another group simply flees, looking for greener pastures elsewhere.
With the Spirit we become a dynamic community, a fellowship of people who give and receive, take chances and accept challenges, hear rebukes and absorb rebuffs and keep coming. With the Spirit we are, as Saint Peter described us, "living stones built into an edifice of the Spirit."
Right now, it seems, many Christian churches, including many Catholic churches, are comprised of consumers. The more prized consumer, as I understand from the field of marketing, are"loyal customers." They are valued for their willingness to pay a little extra for their favorite brands, even if their preferences seem unreasonable to many others. Some people may be attracted to the Church by its nice people, or splendid liturgies, or wonderful choirs and powerful preachers but the Spirit doesn't gather consumers into the Kingdom of God. If they're not fastened to the church like an arm to a shoulder, they're not members. Members remain attached even when the body is sick, as happens occasionally. If they fall away from the body they perish like an amputated limb, even as the body survives.
The Body suffers whenever someone leaves the Church. They take a piece of the Truth with them, and the Church loses some of its credibility. This is why the Lord prayed that all may be one. We have suffered these losses since the very beginning, and have struggled continually to reunite the Church. We don't lightly dismiss anyone for their opinions or lifestyle. I often tell Veterans, "We still claim you!" when they admit they've not attended the Mass in so-many years.

Daily we pray with Jesus that we may do as he commanded, "Love one another as I have loved you."

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.