Because God Is Love, We Must Love

User’s Guide to Sunday, May 6

A golden statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome.
A golden statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome. (photo: 2015 photo, Bohumil Petrik/CNA)

Sunday, May 6, is the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B). Mass Readings: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 98:1-4; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17.

Today’s readings tell us of the wide breadth of God’s love for us, the movement of his love for us and our proper response.

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles relates the early preaching of St. Peter. He explains to the Jews and Gentiles that the Lord’s love “shows no partiality” and so is meant for all persons. Indeed, he witnesses to the fact that the power of the Holy Spirit blessed uncircumcised and unbaptized Gentiles. The Spirit chose them, so the early Church need only respond to God’s choice.

In the First Letter of St. John, we are told that “God is love.” Because of this, he “sent his only Son into the world.” So it is that our love for God is first and foremost a fruit of his love for us, of his movement toward us. Our fidelity to the Lord is, in the end, a response to him, just as in the first reading the early Church simply responded in obedience to the movement of the Spirit.

This movement from God to us so that we might respond to him is the theme taken up again by St. John in today’s Gospel. “As the Father loves me, so I love you. Remain in my love.”

Jesus goes on to tell us that his own love for us is a response to the Father’s love for him. He then says quite pointedly that “it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain. … This I command you: Love one another.”

This commandment is the foundation for the charitable work of the Church. However, at times, we may be tempted to think that loving one another is a task we take up on our own in order to prove our fidelity and righteousness before God. This is a dangerous temptation because it suggests that we can save ourselves through good works.

Rather, the story of Christianity is the story of the movement of God toward us, not the other way around. The Trinity has been seeking us out since the beginning of time. Our task is always to receive and respond so that his love can transform us and guide all our actions.

We are not our own saviors. We need not prove ourselves before God. Because he loved us, we must love each other. God acts first. We respond. Then the fruit comes.

This is the witness of the saints. They teach us that it is not our own willpower, but our openness to receive the love of God, that will transform the world. We need only accept and submit to his love. Thus, out of a deep and abiding experience of the love of God for them, the saints allowed that love to overflow and change society.

This is how, as the Psalm reads, “All the ends of the earth” will see “the salvation by our God.” We can live the Kingdom of God and love one another to the degree that we accept the Lord’s love for us first.

Omar Gutierrez is a permanent deacon in

the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska. 

He is an instructor

with Holy Family School of

Faith in Omaha.