Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflection
6th Sunday of Easter May 17, 2009

One group among several that I admire is Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), a group of volunteer doctors and health workers who offer a portion of their otherwise most productive years doing service where they are needed most in any portion of the globe, with absolutely no consideration given to personal gain of any sort whatsoever, including monetary. They serve regardless of political, economic, religious and other affiliations and allegiances people may have. They just serve and help those who are needy of medical help. Period… Anywhere… Everywhere... To whomever.

Universal may be the right word to use with regard to the scope of the help they are willing to give – and, in fact, give.

As universal as the scope of God’s salvific love for His people. As universal as the reality of God’s call which He gives to all His creatures.

Today’s first reading shows this universality of God’s choice and God’s grace. Cornelius, the Roman centurion, a God-fearing man, along with his whole household (and apparently neighbors and friends) submitted themselves to Baptism and received an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. On that day, a motley group of Jewish Christians and those of pagan origin, became equal in God’s eyes and saw God’s wonders being distributed to everyone in the household. Indeed, “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power!” as our response to the first reading puts it.

This saving power characterized by universality, is God’s love. Such love, we are told, “was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” He was sent to the WORLD, the cosmos, inhabited by women and men of all races and nations. Such love that was given had no bounds, no limits. Concretely, the love that was shown by Jesus was just as boundless: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

This, no doubt, is good news to us a boundary and class-conscious people. We build walls and ramparts to fence out and fence in people, to preserve all sorts of man-made distinctions and separations between and among us. In almost all cities all over the world, particularly in the developed nations, the phenomenon called “urban sprawl” has, for years, been fueled by one single influential factor – the desire to get “far from the madding crowd,” to be different, to preserve one’s jealously guarded privacy, so as not to tarnish one’s image, one’s status and privilege in a world marked by so many class distinctions.

Let us take a serious look at what this universal love of God entails. Jesus tells us: “Love one another as I have loved you.” The phrase “as I have loved you” is the important qualifier here. We moderns speak a whole lot about “love.” Many of us can honestly say they “love” Jollibee. We believe them. This is what, truth to tell, keeps Jollibee posting enormous profits year in and year out – the only corporation in the whole country that can boast of such growth rates in times of economic meltdowns! Still others say they love this or that movie personality. We believe them, too. How else explain their movies’ success at the tills, even rivaling those produced and filmed in Hollywood? Love is a very much bandied about word, used and overused to the point of becoming almost meaningless and devoid of its real original meaning.

We have to go back to Christ to restore its original and real meaning. We need to “start afresh from Christ” who showed us the meaning, extent and repercussions of that love given us by His Father, through him and in union with the Holy Spirit. We need to go back to the examples of the first disciples, who journeyed “from being loved into loving” in return. We need to go back to this God who showed his love not only as everlasting, but as universal … universal enough to call Cornelius and his whole – mind you, pagan – household! … universal enough to do away with man-made class distinctions and separations, enough for them to be receiving the same outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

And here is where we might need to understand a few things about Christian love that is commanded of us by the Lord, “as he loved us.” It has nothing to do with vague, general feeling of compassion. It has nothing to do with superficial liking, like we prefer Jollibee to KFC chicken. It has nothing to do with just superficial emotions that come and go. Loving as Christ did means doing as Christ did, suffering as he did, saving as he did, doing good as he did and working for others’ good just as he did. Now that is a difficult thing to do. But very rewarding …”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.” There’s more! … I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”

Loving without borders … loving without preconditions, and loving as Christ did. Medecins sans Frontieres give us a glimpse of this universal love that is also expected of us. These doctors show us that it is possible. The fulfillment that they get from doing this is non pareil. Signs these are of what is also in store for those who love really from the heart, soul, mind and with all one’s strength – joy, complete joy, along with other gifts that come from the outpouring of the Spirit given to all who are open enough to receive them!