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Gospel for Sunday, May 05: John 15:9-17

VI Sunday of Easter B

9 As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full. 12 This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends, if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master does; but I have called you friends, because everything I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and constituted you that you may go and bear fruit and your fruit may remain; that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he may grant it to you. 17 This I command you: that you love one another”.

Jn 15:9-17

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

One another

“Allèlous,” “one another,” is a word that is repeated hammeringly throughout the New Testament: not only must we “love one another” (Jn 13:34; 15:12; Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9; 1 Jn 3:11,23; 4:7. 11-12; 2 Jn 1:5; 1 Pet 1:22), but we need to “wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14), “compete in esteeming one another” (Rom 12:10), “cease to judge one another” (Rom 14:13), “welcome one another as Christ welcomed us” (Rom 15, 7), “greeting one another with the holy kiss” (Rom 16:16), “expecting one another” (1 Cor 11:33), “not lying to one another” (Col 3:9), “comforting one another by edifying one another” (1 Thess 5:11)… The Church is the place of reciprocity, of close relationships of fraternity “with one another.”

But it is also the place of “syn,” the “with,” the sharing, the companionship: indeed, Paul speaks of con-joking, con-suffering, con-working, con-living, con-dying, even inventing neologisms (1 Cor 12:26; 2 Cor 7:3; Phil 1:27; 2:17). Christians are to “pity” their brothers and sisters, that is, to know how to “suffer with” them: “Rejoice with those who are in joy, weep with those who are in tears” (Rom 12:15), “making yourselves sympathetic to … those exposed to insults and tribulations” (Heb 10:33); “If one member (of Christ’s mystical body) suffers, all the members suffer together; and if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with him” (1 Cor 12:26). Rejoicing and weeping together means living for each other. It is self-denial pushed to such a point that the other is me and I am the other, and so I live the life of the other (Phil. 2:17-18): “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39; 7:12).

“The entire New Testament is traversed by a concern for communion as learning a “forma vitae” marked by “syn” (with) and “allèlon” (reciprocally): this translates into a constant tension toward the ability to feel, think, and act together, toward the responsibility for behavior marked by reciprocity. It is a journey that is born in the most basic fabric of everyday relationships and takes the form of a movement of escape from individualism to land again and again in sharing. The ‘télos’ of all this is well expressed by Paul in 2 Cor 7:3…: ‘To die together and live together'” (E. Bianchi).

A Church of love

Benedict XVI has written that the Church must be a “community of love.” In fact, the only criterion of ecclesiality given to us by Jesus is brotherly love: “By this all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). The second-century pagans, Tertullian tells us, said, “See how they love one another!”

Therefore, the most important dimension of church life is brotherly love: “Love one another with brotherly affection, compete in esteeming one another” (Rom 12:10). What we should seek in the Church is mutual love, no matter what, without jealousy, without pretense. Let the Church be the place of friendliness, mutual acceptance, abstention from judgment, true and full fraternity. The Church, as we have seen, should be the place where fraternal relations “with one another” are very close, and where one is so “with” as to really form one body.

At the same time we must be a Church that sows love. We must become more and more “a Church of compassion, a Church of participatory assumption of the pain of others, a Church of involvement as an expression of her passion for God. For the biblical message about God is, at its core, a message that is sensitive to suffering: sensitive to the pain of others ultimately down to the pain of enemies…The Christian doctrine of redemption has over-dramatized the question of guilt and over-relativised the question of suffering. Christianity has turned from a religion primarily sensitive to suffering into a religion primarily concerned with guilt. It seems that the Church has always had a lighter hand with the guilty than with the innocent victims…Jesus’ first glance was not to the sin of others, but to the pain of others. In the language of a bourgeois religion stiffened in itself, which in the face of nothing is as afraid as in the face of its own shipwreck and which therefore continues to prefer the egg today to the chicken tomorrow, this is difficult to explain. Instead, we must set out on the trail of enduring sympathy, commit ourselves to a courageous readiness not to evade the pain of others, to alliances and projects-bases of compassion that eschew the current current of refined indifference and cultivated apathy, and refuse to experience and celebrate happiness and love exclusively as narcissistic enactments of apparatus” (J. B. Metz).

Brotherly love, the only ecclesiological criterion

Love for the brethren then truly becomes the mark of Jesus’ disciples, the criterion of discernment between those who adhere to Jesus the Christ and those who dissolve him, between the children of light and the children of darkness. For Jesus had said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35). “Loving one another” is the only means of being sure that “God abides in us and his love is perfect in us” (1 Jn. 4:12).

John’s letters forcefully call the Church of all times to return to its essence, which is to be the place of agape, of love, the sign of the presence of the God who is nothing but “agape” (1 John 4:8), love. John urges the Church not to be ideology, not to be power, but to stand alongside every man, in every culture, taking on, following the example of Jesus, their poverty and sufferings, in order to bring to them in concreteness signs of God’s love.

The Johannine letters invite the Church to live, like Christ, the mystery of emptying herself, of stripping herself, of “kènosis” (Phil 2:7-8), in order to make herself all things to all people (1 Cor 9:22). To be a Church that lives in service, in commitment to justice, and that sees in every man, in the poor, the sick, the suffering, the outcast, the excluded, its God to love. A Church, therefore, militant, which strongly, and sometimes painfully, confesses the mystery of the God-Love.

Certainly John’s perspective is different from that of the synoptics. The synoptics emphasize the “ad extra” dimension of love: Luke invites us to be neighbors to everyone, even if they are enemies or unclean like the Samaritan (Lk 10:29-37); Matthew demands, “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, who makes his sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes it rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what merit have you? Do not the publicans also do this? And if you give greeting only to your brothers, what extraordinary thing do you do? Do not the Gentiles also do this?” (Mt. 5:44-47); and Paul will say, “For I would that I myself were anátema, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). John, on the other hand, insists on loving one another among Christians, on love as the hallmark of the Church. Brother for John is not, as Blaz and Bultmann intend, every man, but the Christian: and “no one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). This is the great theme of love within the church, of “loving one another” (1 Jn. 3:11,23; 4:7,11-12; 2 Jn. 1:5).

Why is John, whose writings are among the last of the New Testament, more concerned with the ecclesial dimension of love than the external one? Perhaps because John, as ecclesial life developed, understood how it is often easier to love the distant than it is to love other Christians: and the history of the Church, with all its infighting, its lacerations, its schisms, its mutual excommunications, its parties and factions, its various currents and movements in perpetual dispute with one another, has amply demonstrated this. Sometimes it is easier to commit ourselves to the poor and oppressed than to endure those who marginalize us precisely in the name of Christ. It is easier to help a distant one than to love a neighbor who experiences Christianity with a sensitivity that bumps us. It is easier to forgive an outside oppressor than to dialogue with a hierarchy that may sometimes seem anti-evangelical to us. “Whoever says he dwells in Christ must behave as he behaved” (1 Jn. 2:6): that is, there is a need for the Church to be in the world a visible sign of Incarnate Love, to be its concrete prophecy for all people: we have no other mission than to draw others to us by the power of our mutual love. This is why the Church must put “koinonia,” internal “communion,” in a continuous overcoming of divisions, in search of the fullest unity, in order to be a credible sign of the God Love who founds and animates her.

If there is so much atheism in the world, let us ask ourselves if it is not because we fail to give, by our behavior, the sign of God to people. Our intra-ecclesial relationships, are they under the banner of charity? In the Church, is there always respect for individual persons, for the freedom of the individual, is there mutual listening, acceptance, equality, fraternity, dialogue, abstention from judgment? Jesus’ great desire and prayer before he died was, “That all may be one. As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they also be in us one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:21).

Jerome, quoting an ancient tradition, says that John, now old, was only more able to say, “Love one another!” Observance of the commandment of love is the only criterion for belonging to the saved: worship, theological or biblical knowledge is not: only love is: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. Whoever does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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