WelCom May 2018:
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.’
An emphasis on love
Sr Anne Phibbs csb
A friend often speaks of ‘the beautiful Word of God’ and this reading surely is beautiful with its emphasis on love. Jesus tells his disciples he loves us as the Father loves him. He asks us to remain in his love and shows us the way – keeping his Father’s commandments. The Good News is that we are loved. As Christians we are meant to be lights to the world to show that we can love one another.
This love is not sentimental and it has sacrifice at its heart, sacrifice even of one’s life. One of the few Biblical texts my father used to quote was the old translation, ‘Greater love than this no man hath than to lay down his life for his friends.’ It was solemnly intoned on Anzac Day and used on other occasions to encourage us to good deeds – actions that required ‘little deaths’ to self. No doubt he knew that life is made up of ordinary good deeds rather than heroic ones. Similarly, Bishop Tonino Bello* prayed ‘Holy Mary, ordinary woman, free us from the longing for epic deeds and teach us to consider daily life as the building site where the history of salvation is built.’
In an open letter to Australian cricketer David Warner, Joe Bennett took him to task not for ball-tampering, which he described as ‘just a grubby little bit of cheating’ but for sledging – ‘riling a man in the hope he’ll make a mistake’. He called this worse than cheating as it was discourteous. ‘And courtesy matters. Courtesy is the acknowledgement of another’s right to be. It is the respect of one adult for another …’.
Jesus said, ‘You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves’. Slavery was part of life in Jesus’ time and sadly it is part of our own times. Modern slavery is born of greed and is the world’s second-most significant organised crime with an estimated income of $150 billion annually. New Zealand is not free from this scourge and the Wellington branch of ANZRATH (Aotearoa-New Zealand Religious Against the Trafficking of Humans) is working with the Ministry of Immigration to educate themselves and others about exploitation and modern slavery in our country.
When sentencing the first trafficker to be successfully prosecuted in New Zealand, Justice Paul Heath called people-trafficking ‘an abhorrent crime – a crime against human dignity. It degrades human life and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms’. John Kerry, at the time US Secretary of State said, ‘Trafficking in persons is an insult to human dignity and an assault on freedom. …Modern slavery doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s connected to…the persistence of extreme poverty, discrimination against women and minorities, corruption and other failures of governance, the abuse of social media and the power and reach of transnational organised crime.’
Yet, we have hope. The fundamental call that God has placed in our hearts is the call to the joy of love. At the heart of love stands the cross of Jesus who laid down his life for us and who has chosen us. The abiding power of his love can renew and transform us and the whole of creation.
Sr Anne Phibbs csb is a Brigidine Sister who lives in Porirua and is an active member of ANZRATH (and friends).
*Bishop Bello, of Southern Italy was a champion of the poor and had called for a ‘Church of the apron’ – devoted to service. In 1985, he was chosen as the president of Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement, and held that position until his death, aged 58 in 1993. His beatification process opened in 2007 with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints giving Bishop Bello the title of ‘Servant of God’.