BREAKING OPEN THE WORD
The Ministry entrusted to me by virtue of Ordination, is to break open the Word. I am not a writer as such, I am a proclaimer of God’s Word. Therefore the style of my realhomilie is a preaching style. I do apologise for any typos…they are so had to find at times……. I pray that God’s Word finds a home in you, and that your response to God’s constant invitations, will be like a burning fire within you, which cannot be contained.
‘Love one another, as I have loved you’
Dear One and All,
This week’s Gospel is really the icing on the cake for the post Resurrection selection of Sunday Gospel passages; the Johannine passages which have been selected in this post Easter period, all lead to this: the great commandment of Jesus. Over the years, we have heard this commandment proclaimed in Eucharistic Assemblies on the Lord’s Day, in Sport’s grounds where huge numbers of people have gathered to hear God’s Word and also during Christian rallies. If we log on to the iTunes Store, nearly every second song is about love! Back in my heyday, we often heard the Song: Love is a many splendid thing, or Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage…….yes, these Songs really date me!
Before we go any further, I think that it would do us well to explore the meanings of the word love. In New Testament times there were three Greek words for LOVE. Let’s examine them, so that we are all on the same page of understanding. These three words are, eros, phyla and agape. The first word is about the passion within sexual desire, and it does not appear in the New Testament Literature. I suppose that we could safely say, that it can be an uncommitted form of love, but it could also be the precursor to a deeper form of love. The second word, deals with that love within friendship and comradeship. This is a very deep form of love, which can lead to dying for one’s friends. Or that love which is found among soldiers on the battle ground. We have all heard such extraordinary stories of selflessness, self-giving, and heroic virtue, as people express and place themselves, in astonishing acts of love for others. Phyla can express some of the most saintly actions that men, women and children can “do” and “be” for others. I think here that we could safely include the loving devotion, and preparedness of animals to safeguard and appeal for help for their lovers, who might be in some kind of difficulty. I am not sure what name to call that kind of love, but I am sure that you know what I mean. It is love! Also, notice the number of times that we say to our pet dog….”I love you….” The dog certainly registers an outpouring of love to their owner”. The virtue of unconditional loyalty is manifested by the Dog to its owner, even at the moment of death, when our dog Rosie pictured here with my Mum.
At the moment of my Mum’s death, Rosie kissed her on the cheek.
Finally, the New Testament word for Christian love is agape and agapan. The symbol just below here of the Cross within the heart speaks volumes about Christian love! The absolute uniqueness of New Testament love is that it issues forth from Jesus, the human face of the Father and we have been called and chosen to spread that divine love to the whole world! As you can see from this symbol, the Cross is deeply imbedded within the heart! The flame of love gently bursts forth as light; as the Holy Spirit’s breath; as the direct consequence of the hesed and emet’ in the Old Testament. A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the hesed (Covenant love) emet (undeniable truth) as seen throughout the Old Testament, pertaining to Adonai, the Lord God. Here it is bursting into flower in Jesus, the Christ! Agape itself! (Divine Love)
So often in Old Testament times, the Lord God broke His own law of love by accepting us back, time and time again, we and our ancestors in faith are the unfaithful bride. In Biblical language, God is seen as the Bridegroom, and we, God’s people, are seen and spoken of as the Bride.
The next picture is the famous Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son/Forgiving Father. I have deliberately given you a big size pic, so that you can see some of the very telling aspects of agape as lived by Jesus, and picked up by Rembrandt! For me, this Painting is one of the most powerful images about the inner meaning of Reconciliation which is an indelible part of agape. For Reconciliation to be a truthful expression of Christ centred love, there has to be a desire for both parties to come together in conversation. That is in the conciliation part; reconciliation is the beautiful word which speaks about a hopeful outcome through actions and dialogue. We see all that here!
Notice the hands of the Father resting on the back of his son? They are male and female hands! Look at the Son in rags, dressed like someone who is on their last legs. His shoes are threadbare…..notice how one shoe is off…..probably due to the rushing of the young man, falling to his knees and saying, “Father, I have sinned against you and God, I am no longer worthy to be included in your household!” Look at the faces of the others….especially the one in the shadows! The Conversation begins………but it really had begun much earlier, because the Father knew that his son would return some day, and the Father was prepared to wait, and wait for the unfaithful son to return. The Father did not rub it in when his son came home by saying….” Look at you…..you deserved all that you got!” No, to the contrary, he was hugged!!!!!!!! The loving sacramental actions of this meeting is astounding…..1. The desire to belong. 2. Contrition. 3. The mutual hug, 4. The celebration…… (Eucharist) The agape in Jesus, lays down His life for His sheep.
The agape in Jesus does not call the sin to mind, from the one seeking forgiveness. The one seeking forgiveness has a heart of contrition based on Psalm 50. (Let’s relook at the words that the son says to his father while on his knees) The agape in Jesus are words and actions. The agape in Jesus gives new life to us! Time and time again we are the returning son/daughter to the father.
In this picture below it speaks of the unconditional selfless giving in love for His Sheep! This is not eros, this is not phyla this is pure agape!
We could not have found God, unless God had found us first. It would seem that from the first moments in human history, when we, as Homo sapiens, were able to reflect upon our actions, meditate on the mysteries that surround us, and gaze into the conversation that our God had initiated with us; it was through these moments that we had the faith=insight that God wants to embrace us for ever! ‘I will be your God, and you will be my people’, these are the words of the Covenant-love on Sinai, initiated by Adonai, the Lord God and was galvanised into the New Covenant initiated by Jesus-Christ! The everlasting Covenant, and its consequences for all time, were crystalized in the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel…..’You did not choose me, no, I have chosen you; and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.’
The Blessed Trinity, is about an explanation of the agape which is revealed in the three persons of the Godhead. Through the famous Russian, Andrei Rublev, we get a sense as to how this mystery has been understood, and the biblical roots from where the ideas grew.
(Here I acknowledge with thanks, Google Search for leading me to this article on the Icon of the Trinity 1425-1427)
Icon “Trinity” – the most famous work of the Great Russian painter Andrei Rublev. According to one of the sources of the XVII century, it was written “to the praise of Sergius of Radonezh” commissioned by his disciple and successor of abbot Nikon. At the heart of iconography – the biblical story (Pr. of Genesis, XVIII) on the phenomenon of the righteous Abraham deity in the form of three angels. Abraham and his wife Sarah were treated under the shadow of angels Mamvriyskogo oak, and Abraham was given to understand that the angels embodied divinity in three persons. Avoiding the details, conventional in the story “The hospitality of Abraham,” Andrei Rublev achieved exclusively symbolic depths of his creations. In Rublev’s icon of the attention is focused on the three angels, their silent communion. They are depicted as seated around the throne, which is placed in the centre of the Eucharistic cup with the head of the sacrificial bull, symbolizing the New Testament lamb, t. E. Christ. The left and middle angels bless the bowl. God the Father blesses God the Son to die on the cross for the love of the people. God the Holy Spirit (right angel) is present here as a comforter, claiming a high sense of sacrifice, forgiving love. The content of the “Trinity” is not unique monument in its multifaceted topics, primarily it embodies the idea of the Trinity of the Godhead. In the time of St. Sergius of Radonezh and Andrei Rublev’s Trinity topic was seen as a symbol of spiritual unity, mutual love, peace, and a willingness to sacrifice himself. (agape)
So, to conclude this small reflection on the Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter, it seems that a paramount part of our calling to bear fruit, depends upon having a home in God and God in us. It also means that the wisdom (Sophia Theos) which runs through our metaphorical veins, and being pruned, so that we can bear much fruit; seems to be the package! However, the invitation is a command from God in the name of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit. In turn, we then are living, and proclaiming ‘The new Heavens and the New Earth) as we see in the Book of Revelation; we have nothing to fear! It all comes from the Agape of God, and we are called in and through that Divine love to be walking additions of the Good News! To be living Gospels who experience all the aspects, twists and turns as Jesus grew in his awareness of self, and the filial relationship with his father. The miracles, passion stories, resurrection narratives, etc are mirrored in our lives as we take seriously the Commandment of Jesus…….’Love one another, as I have loved you!’
FROM WORD TO THANKSGIVING:
We gives thanks to God our Father, for his Son, Jesus. Because of the great love with which he loves us he has made us his friends, and his Spirit enables us to bear fruit which will last.
(Respectively copied from The Glenstal Bible Missal, sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B. Page 787)
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