Sermons

May 19: Fifth Sunday of Easter

“I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: love one another.” John 13:34.

Jesus tells us: “I give you a new commandment, love one another, as I have loved you.” And, “This is how all will know you are my disciples, your love for one another.”

Today’s passage from Saint John’s gospel contains two often neglected almost “throwaway lines,” like water over pebbles such details often go unnoticed because of the rapid streams or the cascade of events.

First, let’s examine the phrase, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”

There is urgency in these words, but if the great translator Saint Jerome is correct, the idea of calling the apostles and disciples, “little children,” comes with the fact that John’s gospel, was completed in Ephesus (in present-day Turkey) and composed when John was 90 years old. Everyone to him was much younger at a time when they were experiencing persecutions, and his was a comforting and encouraging message.

Today’s gospel phrase begins: “When Judas had left them.”

Of course, this passage is located in Jesus’s “farewell discourses.” It describes the scene at the last supper, this eternal banquet in which Jesus commands love among his followers and even toward enemies who are close by.

What does this moment look like for us? How might this scene influence others to love one another? So as the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Here’s a recent experience of mine.

To establish my identity for a change in a computer password, I was required to forward a “selfie,” in which I had to hold up to the lens of my smartphone my California Drivers License.

To accomplish this feat, I had several awkward movements, to set up the shot. Naturally, it would have been a lot easier if I had a selfie stick or another person take the photo, or better yet, a third hand.

This pose got me to thinking that we live in the most photographed era in human history. To make this point, Instagram alone has 800 million accounts worldwide with 500 million active. Forty million photographs are posted each day, and by 2016 there were 282 million selfies.

Just in case you want to know, yes, pizza is the most Instagrammed food photo. More important, today’s visual persuasion techniques come by way of social media “influencers” whose Instagram accounts have large followings, thus cultivating tastes and drawing audiences to products and causes.

Long before Instagram, artists labored to bring this image of the last supper to life, even in places like the catacombs underneath ancient Rome, there is wall art that depicts the communal celebration of the eucharistic celebration.

By 1495, the iconic painting, known in Italian as “Il Cenacolo” by Leonard Da Vinci hovered over a convent dining room in Milan’s Santa Maria Delle Grazie.

This painting has remained indelible and over time has been replicated by other artists and printers. So much so, when we think of the last supper, it’s Da Vinci’s image that comes to mind; it’s “worth a thousand words.”

But like water over a pebble, there is something else worth mentioning. Those eating together under this art work must possess, a higher bond in their day-to-day communal behavior as a family, or religious community or a college/high school.

Without these bonds of love toward one another and this witness and outreach to those in need, people searching for the Christ may never see or hear him. In today’s social media jargon, we too must be influencers for Christ!

By living this blessed life, as Jesus envisioned it, people will stop in their tracks to listen and to take notice of the person of Jesus whose sweet music and continuance is the human face of God among us.

Jean Vanier, the philosopher and humanitarian, once said: “To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance.” At 90, Vanier died this month in France where in 1963 he began his life’s work, L’Arche, communities of the physically and mentally challenged who he called his “teachers of tenderness.” Today, there are 154 of L’Arche communities in 38 countries.

A second person who brought people to the table of the Lord was a “trailblazing Oakland priest,” Father Jay Matthews, the rector/pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the Light. This past July, the Sunday to Sunday production team had the honor of meeting Father Jay, and below is our video tribute to him and his ministry.

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

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