Sixth Sunday of Easter
1) Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
2) 1 Jn 4:7-10
Gospel: Jn 15:9-17
I don’t often laugh out loud at signs in front of churches, but I did for a moment as I walked past a church this morning and read “We believe the unbelievable.”
That’s good, I thought. The folks here happily acknowledge that Christianity isn’t composed simply of obvious statements about reality. Some things Christians believe are deeply mysterious — not literally unbelievable, but close to it. But hey, those who posted the sign seemed to be saying, if we can believe these things, you can too!
Today’s second reading is certainly filled with the almost unbelievable. “God sent his only son into the world,” the biblical writer, John, tells us. This son, just as much God as his father (now there’s a huge mystery) has become a human being (no less huge a mystery). And why? God “sent his son as expiation for our sins.”
Expiation of sins means removing them. Here we have the mystery that Jesus’ death remedies our sinfulness — and the mystery that our sins needed such an extreme remedy.
Finally, also deeply mysterious, through Jesus’ expiating death and resurrection — if we will believe it — God has given us a new life. He has made a fundamental change in us. We are “begotten by God.” God has re-created us, placing his Spirit in us.
John not only declares God’s actions. He calls us to act. “Let us love one another,” he says. Here the challenge is not to believe the almost unbelievable but to practice the often impractical.
To love other people is hardly common-sense advice. “Keep a sharp lookout for scoundrels and fools” would be wiser, based on general experience. But no, John says, go beyond that kind of wisdom and love even those of whom you should beware.
There is a connection between what John tells us about God and the way of life he urges us to undertake. Love originates in God (“God is love”) and has come to us (“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us”).
God’s initiative empowers us to step out and live in the unexpected, difficult, even dangerous way of loving other people. Without God’s mysterious movement toward us, how could we ever do that?
Perhaps when the folks at the church take down their present sign, they could put up another like it: “We do the impossible!”
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.