COMBONIANUM – Spiritualità e Missione

Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church

6th Sunday of Easter (B)

Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)
John 15: 9-17


Gospel Reflection
Fernando Armellini

Today’s gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s. After introducing the allegory of the vine and the branches, Jesus explains what happens in those who remain united to him.

There are fleeting infatuations for Christ, dictated by temporary emotion and enthusiasm. There is a lasting attachment that no opposing force is able to break. This strong and decisive adhesion is expressed by John with the verb to remain (μενειν in Greek). It occurs seven times in the parable of the vine and mentioned thrice at the beginning of our passage (vv. 9-10).

Jesus remains in the Father’s love because he is always united to him. He is faithful to the Father and “always does what pleases him” (Jn 8:29). The disciples can become in the world a reflection of this union only if they remain in His love and keep his commandments: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and make a room in his home” (Jn 14:23).

These words and images, full of mysticism, make one clearly perceive, the appeal to the Eucharist. This is sacrament where this intimate union with the Lord is celebrated and realized: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood, live in me, and I in them” (Jn 6:56).

That’s why, before receiving communion, everyone must “examine himself,” to see if he really is determined to remain in the Lord, otherwise his act is a lie and “he eats and drinks his own condemnation” (1 Cor 11:28-29).

In these first verses (vv. 9-10), Jesus does not present his love as a role model, but as a life that continues in the disciples. In baptism, they were inserted in him, becoming his members. So it is he who acts in them. In the disciples it is Christ who announces the good news to the poor, loves, cares, comforts, dries the tears of the widow and of the orphan. The result of this union with Christ and with the Father and of the observance of his commandments is the fullness of joy (v. 11).

The word “joy” recurs seven times in the Gospel of John. The first to employ it is the Baptist when he says: “The friend of the bridegroom rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice. My joy is now full” (Jn 3:29). It’s always Jesus who insistently repeats to his disciples the promise of his joy.

The conviction that remaining in Christ is tantamount to giving up what makes one happy is still rooted. It is not so. Jesus warns, yes, of vain and illusory joys arising from selfishness, the pursuit of pleasure at any cost. He offers, instead, the authentic joy, that which comes from union with him and with the Father. This only true and lasting joy can be obtained by going through pain: “You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20). Trying alternative paths, choosing easy and spacious roads means getting lost, being far from the goal.

After speaking of his commandments, as if they were many, Jesus declares: “This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you” as if it were only one (v. 12).

It is true, the commandments are many, but they are only clarifications of a single commandment, that which Jesus perfectly practiced: love of people. All moral choices, provisions and laws must refer to the good of all because it is the only way we have to show God our love: “How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your brother whom you see?” (1 Jn 4:20). Who loves the brother or sister has fulfilled all the law: “for the whole Law is summed up in this sentence: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:14; Rom 13:8-10).

At the Last Supper, after washing the feet of his disciples, he said: “Now I give you a new commandment: Love one another! Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

Comparing the two formulas with which the only commandment is presented, one notes a slight but significant difference. Before the commandment was “new”, now it is “his”, as if it was no longer “new”.

There is a reason why the change is introduced. The evangelist writes after the events of the Passover, when Jesus has already passed from this world to the Father. First he practiced the new commandment: he loved up to giving all of himself. That is the reason why the commandment is no longer new, but has become his, what he has done. The measure of love of neighbor is no longer the one indicated by the Old Testament: as yourself (Lev 19:18); but: as I have loved you, and with this expression, Jesus refers to the highest love he has shown on the cross.

Remain in him alone who is always willing to “give life” because “there is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends” (v. 13) and “Christ loved us and he gave himself up for us” (Eph 5:2).

His commandment is not intended as a demanding, precise and well-defined law in all the details. It is a life orientation that, in its practical implications, should be determined from moment to moment. It requires constant attention to the needs of the brother/sister, imagination, discernment and courage to make decisions even at the risk of making mistakes.

Jesus does not call his disciples servants but friends (vv. 14-15).

This statement is not immediately clear because in the Bible, “servant of God” is a title of honor, given to people such as Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets. The old man Simeon, Paul, Peter and many others are classified as “servants” and Mary is called “the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Jesus, above all, is indicated by the Father with the words: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen” (Mt 12:18). In the famous song of the Letter to the Philippians, Paul reminds us that he “took on the nature of a servant” (Phil 2:7). Hence the exhortation to become servants of one another (Mk 9:35).

Jesus gives the reason why he does not call his disciples servants, but friends.

The servant is involved only exteriorly in the project of the master. He is an executor of orders and tasks assigned to him. The friend is instead a confidant. He is the one with whom he cultivates a communion of life, projects and intentions. The friend is happy when he can make a favor to a loved one. He does not hide anything from him. He does not charge a compensation for the service provided.

Jesus calls his disciples “friends” because he revealed the plan of the Father to them (v. 15). He called them to collaborate with him on its realization.

The Christian community is made up of “friends”. Superior-subject, master-slave, teacher-disciple rapports are therefore excluded. All its members are in the same level and enjoy equal dignity.

After washing the apostles’ feet, Jesus admits being “lord and master,” but he gives a whole new meaning to these titles: “the first,” one who is “great” in the community is the one who washes the feet of the last. There is no place for one who, instead of serving, aspires to prestigious positions and honors.

The whole passage is a hymn to love. But who is to be loved?

The exhortation is clearly directed only to the disciples and love seems restricted to their group. One wonders then why Jesus did not require a universal love, extended to all, even to enemies, as he did in the sermon on the mount (Mt 5:44).

That’s right, here Jesus speaks directly only to members of the Christian community and only to them he recommends unity and mutual love. It is a limitation, but there’s a reason: Before talking about love and peace to others, it is necessary to cultivate love and peace in the church.

Only a community whose members make a lively and profound experience of acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, mutual service, sharing of goods can announce brotherhood or sisterhood and peace to the world.

Fr. Fernando Armellini

Commentary on Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

THE THEME OF TODAY’S MASS is clearly love. When we see a film or television programme, when we hear people singing on the radio, the subject is very often about love. Even in the church, we speak frequently about love. In fact, as Oliver sings in the musical based on Charles Dickens’ story, “Where is love?” And what is love?

According to today’s Second Reading the centre of all living is love. It is not only the centre of Christian living but needs to be at the centre of any kind of life.

Our Christian faith should not be just seen as a religion, something tacked on to an otherwise secular life which in most respects is the same as everyone else’s. Our Christian faith is a vision of how a human life should be lived in fullness. It teaches us how to be a real person. I think it was St Irenaeus who said a very long time ago that “The glory of God is a person fully alive” (Gloria Deo homo vivens). And a person is only fully alive when full of love. Because such a person then reflects best the God who IS love.

What is love?

It would be well at this point to say what we mean here by the term “love”. The Greek word that John uses in his gospel and in the three letters attributed to him is agape (pronounced ‘ag -ah-pay’, Greek, ‘agaph). The Christian writer C.S. Lewis once wrote a small book called “The Four Loves” in which he discusses four different ways of loving. The first of these is eros (eros), which is physical love, the love of young lovers, the love of Romeo and Juliet. The second is philia, (filia), which in a way is the highest form of love. It is the love of friendship, is essentially mutual and shared, and touches every aspect of a person’s being expressing itself in a total transparency through intimacy, affection and perhaps sexually. It covers marriage and all other genuinely close relationships. To experience such a relationship is one of the great blessings of life. The third love mentioned by Lewis is prautes (prauths), sometimes translated as ‘gentleness’ and, less happily’ as ‘meekness’ (as in “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”). It suggests someone who is unassuming, undemanding and totally submissive to what God wants but also warm and caring.

Finally, agape describes a love which reaches out to others without expecting anything in return. Such is the love of God for his creation. God’s loves is poured out in abundance on every single creature and it continues to flow out whether there is a response or not. This is the love which the father in the story of the Prodigal Son shows to the wayward son who has gone far away and wasted all his father’s gifts on a debauched life. It may come as a shock to some to be told that the love of God for the Mother of Jesus and for the most immoral person you can think of is exactly the same! God is love; it is his very nature; he cannot not love. What then is the difference between Mary and some depraved person? It is in the response. Mary listened to Jesus. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it,” Jesus once said referring to his mother. Mary said an unconditional ‘Yes’ to God at her annunciation. She opened her heart to the agape of God.

It is that love of agape which we, too, are supposed to have. It is this love that enables us to love our enemies and want to be reconciled with them. We are not asked to love them with eros or philia. That would not make sense. To love them with agape is to want the very best for them, to want them to reform, to be changed, to be healed of hate and negativity.

Where there is God, there is love

Therefore, John says today, “Wherever there is love, there is God”. He does not say, “Wherever there are Christians, there is God” or “Wherever there is a Christian church, there is God”. But, wherever there is a person filled with real agape-love for others, God is there. That is the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan. He was called “good” not because he was a religious person but because he reached out in compassionate love for someone who was supposed to be his enemy. So we can find agape, and therefore God at work, in a Protestant, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim. Maybe that person has no religious faith at all. He or she may be an agnostic, an atheist, a communist.

Wherever in the world there is truth, compassion, justice, true freedom and peace, God is certainly there.

What gives value to my life?

Perhaps I have been baptised, perhaps my family is Catholic for a long time, perhaps I fervently go to Mass every Sunday, perhaps I carefully keep all the Ten Commandments, yet if I do not really love and reach out in solidarity to brothers and sisters, whoever they are and wherever they are, I do not have God’s life in me. Paul put it well when writing to the Christians of Corinth: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13:1-3).

God loves me unconditionally but that love is not in me if I am not passing it on to others.

One commandment

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us just one commandment. He does not say, “Love Jesus or love God as I have loved you”. No, he says, “If you want to be my disciple, then you must love one another, as I have loved you.” If we really love our brothers and sisters, including strangers and even enemies, we do not have to worry if we love God. But, if we do not love everyone unconditionally, then there is no other way I can claim to love Jesus. I need to love those God loves (with agape) and God loves every single person without exception, even the most wicked.

So I do not really have to worry and ask, “Is it a sin to do, say or think such a thing?” Or, “Does the Church allow me to do this?” Rather, let me ask this way: “When I do, say or think such and such, am I really a loving person?” In one way, to be a Christian is terribly simple. I do not need to study in a university or an institute of theology. If I really love people as Jesus loves me, I will definitely graduate – with honours!

In practice, of course, it is not always so easy. We need to learn slowly how to love people unconditionally. Our lower instincts and the prevailing culture around us think differently. Yet, we need to learn that the way of Jesus is in fact more in tune with our deeper nature. It is more human to be loving than hating (yet we often excuse our outbursts or anger or hatred as being “only human”). Deep down, we all want to love people. We do not like to hate people and hating does terrible things to our minds and our bodies. We like people to be our friends and do not like them to be our enemies.

Yet, because of our past experiences, the influence of parents and other people around us, the pressures of our society and our traditions, we often do not know how to love, do not know how to forgive, do not know how to be reconciled.

Love and commandments

The love that Jesus speaks about is very different from the love of the pop songs on MTV, or much of the love on TV and the movies. Sometimes when we love, we will be very happy. But sometimes loving the poor, the sick, the criminal will not be very easy. If we have to look after a relative who is close to dying, it can be a very painful experience, especially if that patient is difficult or unresponsive to our attentions. But that is love.

Love is not a question of keeping rules and commandments. Love is a way of life. It is an internal attitude which influences every single thing we do and say and think.

The love of a Christian needs to be unconditional. Sometimes people will love us back; sometimes they will not. Sometimes, even though we want to love people, they may reject us. If they do reject us, we need not necessarily think that we have done wrong. When people cannot return genuine love, it is they who have the problem. Sad to say, not everyone is capable of loving. All the more reason why we need to reach out to them. People often learn to love by being loved.

The most important thing is not that I am very clever, very successful, very rich, very famous… The most important thing is that I am someone who really loves. When I genuinely love others, there will always be some who cannot love me back but there will be others who will really respond in love. And it may be that my love has empowered them to be loving too.

To be able to reach out in love and to experience being loved is God’s greatest grace.


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Questa voce è stata pubblicata il 07/05/2021 da in ENGLISH, Sunday Reflection con tag .

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San Daniele Comboni (1831-1881)


Combonianum è stato una pubblicazione interna di condivisione sul carisma di Comboni. Assegnando questo nome al blog, ho voluto far rivivere questo titolo, ricco di storia e patrimonio carismatico.
Il sottotitolo Spiritualità e Missione vuole precisare l’obiettivo del blog: promuovere una spiritualità missionaria.

Combonianum was an internal publication of sharing on Comboni’s charism. By assigning this name to the blog, I wanted to revive this title, rich in history and charismatic heritage.
The subtitle
Spirituality and Mission wants to specify the goal of the blog: to promote a missionary spirituality.

Sono un comboniano affetto da Sla. Ho aperto e continuo a curare questo blog (tramite il puntatore oculare), animato dal desiderio di rimanere in contatto con la vita del mondo e della Chiesa, e di proseguire così il mio piccolo servizio alla missione.
I miei interessi: tematiche missionarie, spiritualità (ho lavorato nella formazione) e temi biblici (ho fatto teologia biblica alla PUG di Roma)

I am a Comboni missionary with ALS. I opened and continue to curate this blog (through the eye pointer), animated by the desire to stay in touch with the life of the world and of the Church, and thus continue my small service to the mission.
My interests: missionary themes, spirituality (I was in charge of formation) and biblical themes (I studied biblical theology at the PUG in Rome)

Manuel João Pereira Correia


Questo blog non rappresenta una testata giornalistica. Immagini, foto e testi sono spesso scaricati da Internet, pertanto chi si ritenesse leso nel diritto d’autore potrà contattare il curatore del blog, che provvederà all’immediata rimozione del materiale oggetto di controversia. Grazie.


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