United in love, we are called to gather as one faith in Jesus Christ. The Easter season continues with the fifth and sixth Sundays. Mass readings point to our oneness in God. We grow in a deeper understanding of community, truth and love. 

Community 

The readings from the Acts of the Apostles tell of how the early church, led by the Holy Spirit, grew primarily through the preaching, teaching and prayers of the apostles, disciples and unlikely witnesses, including St. Paul, of Tarsus and a Roman centurion. The readings pick up immediately after St. Paul’s conversion, given to him by the abundant grace and mercy of God. Even the apostles were afraid of this murderer of Christians turned follower of Christ. Yet Barnabas affirmed that St. Paul had indeed been baptized, preached the good news of Jesus to the very same people who stoned Stephen, and was now fleeing from those who wanted to stone him. This least likely man became one of the greatest apostles of Jesus. What happened to him? What was so powerful that caused him to turn?  

Cornelius, a Roman centurion, was given a vision by an angel to seek out St. Peter. At the same time, St. Peter was given a vision by an angel to eat what was considered common, “for God has cleansed.” This vision also included that he would be sought out by three men and to go with them unhesitatingly. This did happen. St. Peter went with the men even though they were Gentiles, ones who were considered unclean by the Jews. Yet, God “has cleansed.” St. Peter, upon meeting Cornelius and those with him, proclaimed what Jesus had done. The Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles and they were baptized that day! The least likely became part of the community. What happened to them? What was so powerful that a group of Gentiles became Christian that day?  

The church was rapidly spreading beyond borders. The community listened to the witness of those who knew Christ and how he lived, suffered, died and rose. Those who believed would be forgiven for their sins and given new life in God though the sacrifice of Jesus and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Hearts of the least likely were becoming witnesses by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

This still happens today. Recall those who were just recently initiated into the church at Easter Vigil. All were called by God to seek him in the fullness of truth through Jesus Christ. The community of believers then guides them on a journey of faith formation, witnessing what is known to be true in Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, they are given the sacraments of baptism (community), confirmation (strength) and Eucharist (fortification) to further receive the abundance of God’s mercy and grace! What joy!! Of course the foundation of this community is love.  

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Love 

God is love. God is truth. The root of our existence is the love of God, for we are anchored, as branches, to him on the vine who is Jesus. Grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit flow like water through “xylem,” offering us the ability to bear “fruit;” that is to glorify God as true witnesses in all we do. We, therefore, remain in him in order to be good fruit.  

We must love as he loves. One may ask, “How does God love?” He loves by the greatest act of love: He laid down his life for us, whom he calls friend. This intimate union with God, fully visible in Jesus, is a call to love be beyond measure. God’s love for us is real, authentic, unconditional, creative, sustaining, life-giving and “is on earth as it is in heaven.” We, thus petition, “Give us this day, our DAILY BREAD and FORGIVE US our trespasses as WE FORGIVE those who trespass against
us … ” 

Our daily bread is the bread from heaven, the glorified body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, Jesus in the Eucharist. His real presence flows through our veins by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called to turn away from sin which weakens our ability to remain attached to the vine. But how can we remain in him, firmly attached to the vine? Simply put, follow the Ten Commandments, live a virtuous life, make sacrifices out of love for others before self, perform works of mercy, seek forgiveness of sins by way of reconciliation, become fortified in Christ Jesus by attending Mass, weekly, and if possible, daily. But most of all we are called to be a community of love. It is important to love, but it’s most important to BE love. Be the Love that loves you. Be Christ’s love for all.   

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.