"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
May 13, 2012: Sixth Sunday of Easter
• Acts 10:25-48
Overview: In this week’s Gospel Jesus issues a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). The readings this week focus on love, which is the heart and soul of the Gospel. Christian love, agape, is purely selfless, concerned only for the good of the other as other. Although Jesus expressed the love of God in many ways, it is most obvious on the cross where he gave his life for others. The resurrection affirms the central truth of who God is and the power of love, which knows no bounds. It is confirmed when the Holy Spirit comes upon Cornelius, a gentile, his family and servants. This important event takes place at the end of Peter’s speech where he proclaims the limitless nature of God’s love: “Truly,” he says, “I see that God shows no partiality.”
In the second reading we hear the essence of the Gospel: “God is love.” While this may seem obvious to us, it was a revolutionary message that “turned the whole world upside down” when it was first announced (Acts 17:6).
In this week’s Gospel Jesus explains what God’s love really means when he says, “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” These words were spoken at the Last Supper when earlier that evening Jesus tells the disciples that if they love him and keep his commandments he will send the Spirit of truth (John 14:15). Jesus makes the true nature of God plainly visible. We no longer have to guess what God is like. We know. All three readings add up to one, all-important point: Love is not simply a nice idea, a vague theory or an elusive ideal. Love is a person who gives everything he has, his very life.
Key verse: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.’ God ‘shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’” (No. 604).
Pope Benedict XVI: “In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 1).
Application: Springtime brings a surge of new life as days get longer and brighter, and yet many people live in darkness and without hope because they don’t know Christ. It’s up to us to introduce people to him and to show them God’s love in everything we say and do. Jesus said “You are the light of the world.” In a world plagued by violence and hatred, cynicism and despair, the message that “God is love” is one that desperately needs to be heard.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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