Gospel – John 15:9-17
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.”I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
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 no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”
Reflection on the Gospel
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
Today Jesus recalls the commandment to love one another. The followers are to exemplify what they preach: “See how they love one another.” How did this message catch on? The epic 1950s movie, Quo Vadis, which portrays early Christianity’s coming to Rome, has an evocative scene where Paul addresses the Roman Christians in the catacombs. The screenwriters crafted a credible and moving, if anachronistic, sermon for Paul. The camera pans rows of listeners whom Paul urges to live as one and care for each other. We see humble people on crutches, lepers, old and blind people, children in simple dress, affluent people also. Dress identifies everyone’s level. The tableau itself, symbolically if not literally true, depicts a gospel ideal. Paul reminds them the message comes directly from Jesus through Peter, also present, and Paul himself who met Jesus on the road. No one knows exactly how the message did spread. The process involved interaction among Diaspora Judaism, pagan belief, and the followers of Jesus, perhaps over a meal. Paul writes of addressing assemblies in his travels. The message appealed to first century Romans of various social backgrounds. Why was this? As Roman culture diffused through the empire supplanting Hellenism, ideas collided. The altruistic themes the Christians taught attracted those alienated by features of Roman culture. Some thoughtful Romans, Augustine was one, questioned the ethics of gladiatorial spectacles. A friend of his, Alypius, also a convert and eventually a bishop, eagerly watched the games. In their correspondence Alypius laments that he can’t free himself from taking pleasure in watching people wound and kill for entertainment. Could a follower of Jesus cheer the skillful slash that split an opponent’s head? Romans, in esoteric cults, buried a boy up to his neck and placed food five feet away to whet his appetite. The cultists thought this somehow made the boy a love charm. In popular imagination, ancient Rome featured orgies and depravity. In reality, Romans did strive to live ethically by their precepts. Rome’s stern law code contained seeds of belief in individual dignity. Still, around the time of Jesus, some Romans found aspects of their culture wanting. Brutal features made the disciples’ teaching attractive. Not everything unsatisfying was harsh. What we call a ‘quest for meaning’ beset educated people. The allure of people who preach love and seek to live it would lead to an interest in more of their ideas. What persists from that time to now is that Christian belief imposes on us choices about our culture.
(Nobel Laureate, Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote the original novel Quo Vadis.)
Brother Charles O’Connell, FSC
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Catholic University, Br. Charles earned graduate degrees from Syracuse University and NYU, and has taught at St. John’s College High School, CBA-Syracuse, Manhattan College; and La Salle Academy-NYC. Disabled by the long term effects of polio, he now resides at De La Salle Hall.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.