Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - New Commandment
It is said that one of the early Roman Emperors, while watching the circus events in which Christians were pitted against lions, gladiators and the like, commented "See how these Christians love each other"! It amazed him that, in the face of great danger, Christians still had time to support each other. But then, the emperor did not know of the New Commandment that Christ had introduced. Our readings today speak of this radical teaching.

Acts 14: 21-27 - Paul and Barnabas have completed their first missionary journey. In addition to setting up new communities of Christians, much of their time was spent comforting and strengthening these groups to persevere, through mutual support, in the face of opposition and persecution.

Apocalypse 21: 1-5 - Here we see the ultimate goal of Christ's teaching - a new beginning for people as they come to recognise the common denominator we all possess in the indwelling presence of God, who is there to encourage, to reassure and to challenge.

Gospel Jn 13: 31 - 35 - This passage introduces us to the new feature of Christ's teaching - mutual regard and respect by one individual for another. The new and difficult commandment - love one another as I have loved you.

Point 1: Reading of the response given by those who first accepted the title "Christian", and comparing it with today's scene, it would appear that there is a fair way to go in our attempts to emulate those early Christians. Hostility, indifference and selfishness are still very much part of the scene, despite Christ's statement " By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples". And yet, love is what life is about! We pick up the newspaper and we read how an ageing movie actor has finally found "true" love with a partner twenty years younger, and this after eight previous marriages! The obituary columns give daily testimony to the love and affection felt for a departed spouse or relative- a love and affection that was not always present in life! In love's name and for its sake, a person works, suffers, sacrifices even life itself, either by giving or taking it, so that love may survive.

Point 2: This need for love is particularly true for the Christian. Our earliest religious instruction centres on the proposition that "God first loved His people", and the power of this love reached out to all creatures through the act of creation. Further testimony was given when, after the rejection by people of this love through disobedience, God came amongst people in the person of Christ to confirm that the ultimate fulfilment in life can only come through love. The need to have regard and respect for each other is basic to the Christian position. This was the new feature of Christ's teaching, and the most difficult. He had not come to destroy the law ; but to perfect it, and the yardstick by which His followers would be measured would be the regard and respect they have for each other. Christ stated clearly that it is impossible to profess love of God where there is no concern, no regard or no respect for others.

Conclusion: It is worthwhile, then, for us to review our attitudes in this matter. In our approach to people, do we acknowledge that, regardless of differences, we have something in common with everyone - God - and that common factor demands respect by each for the other.

Scriptural reference: There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-5)