Reading 1: Acts 15:22-31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 57:8-9, 10 and 12
Gospel: John 15:12-17
We have never really enjoyed rules as people and sometimes a little less as men. We see and hear many cliche situations surrounding this idea. A man throwing out the directions in how to build his new dresser in order to face the task alone. The husband who decides to make the trek in vacation without the aid of directions because “he knows where he’s going.” We just hate being told what to do because we know better. According to Webster, pride is what one feels when we achieve something either on our own or in close association to source. St. Paul, who we’ve been following in the Acts of the Apostles, reminds us in his letter to the Galatians that “if anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they are deceiving themselves” (Galatians 6:3). No matter if we know better, there is still one who knows best.
In todays scripture we see answers to questions we still hear a lot in the church: Of all the rules we follow what is the most important? What is the minimum I need to follow and still be okay? In the first reading, the church that is being built and spread has appointed Judas and Silas to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch. Antioch has already been visited by disciples and through the teachings are becoming overwhelmed, disturbed, and upset by what they feel are ‘restrictions’ in living. Judas, Silas, Paul, and Barnabas carry a letter to answer the bare minimum of importance if they are to follow the path of Jesus Christ. What is more important in this passage is how the letter begins: Greetings. Often time in how we pray for others or how we begin with evangelism forgets that we are face to face with our brothers and sisters. That even with those inside and outside of the church we must begin with “hello” or “peace be with you” and get to know them first. To break down barriers and express that what we preach is not to upset or disturb but only out of love.
This brings us to the Gospel for today. The reminder by John on what Jesus says is our bare minimum. In Marks Gospel we have a teacher of the law ask which is the most important of all the commandments. Jesus gives us two: to love God, the one God, with all our heart and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In todays Gospel, John expands on this commandment of love and what that looks like to Jesus and for us. In otherwords it is a rule we as men must choose to follow and not fill ourselves with pride in saying we know better. Jesus says the greatest of love is to lay down one’s life for friends (JN 15:13). This could be a sacrifice of time, service, or comfort for others rather than actually dying for those we love. When we see what Jesus is teaching us today though we sing out the Psalm “I will give thanks amoung the peoples, O Lord” (PS 57:10). For on that cross we see this greatest form of love come alive for a reminder of how to live and love after the resurrection. That Jesus is our friend, our savior, and again today our teacher.