Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|Fr. Richard Ver Bust
God's love is complete with no limits
The metaphor of love helps us know God more deeply
May 28, Sixth Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
During the past weeks we have used various images to describe Jesus. He was called the good shepherd. Last week John used the image of a vine to describe our relationship to him. People have also always found images to describe God. In the Old Testament or First Testament, God was called a rock, a shepherd, and a king. These are only a few. The writers looked for metaphors, which would help understand the role of God within their life and therefore better appreciate the nature of God. Of course we know that all of them have limitations. Perhaps that is why Israel was forbidden to have any image of God within the temple. Whatever image they would have used of God would always be limiting.
So the writer of John's Gospel used the metaphor of love to help his readers know God more deeply. God is not a person, is not male or female. We still need words to talk about God. The author of the Letters of John and also the author of the Gospel tried to develop a language about God. It is true that the word love might sound abstract but it still helps us understand God better. Human love is a limited suggestion of the great love of our Creator for us. So when we use the word love to describe God we are trying to express our appreciation of what God has done for us. Love has no limits and, therefore, may be the best word we have to speak about God.
The Gospel speaks about the deepest and most complete love as being one in which a person gives up one's life for another person. This is what Jesus would do. Since his disciples are his friends and friendship is the way in which he relates to them, they are close to him. The author also stresses that Christ has chosen them to be his disciples. They did not make that choice on their own. They heard his call and now are being commissioned to share the good news of Christ's love with others. The others in turn will know that they too are disciples through their love for one another.
The second reading from the First Letter of John tells us that our experiences of love explain God's relationship to us. We are truly God's children. Without love we would know we are without God. Yet the most wonderful experience of God was in the fact that God sent his own son to us in the person of Jesus. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior we are able to share God's own life, which is love.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes a very important event in salvation history. Peter is speaking to Cornelius. Cornelius, a Roman centurion, is being invited to share in the good news. Luke describes how the Holy Spirit came down upon Cornelius and his entire household. It is similar to the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter begins to realize that the commission he had received from Christ to go forth and share the good news should also be shared with people who are not Jews. Luke emphasizes the importance of this event by telling it three times. The vision of Peter, the event itself, and the report of the event to the Jerusalem community show that Luke wanted to stress how important this coming of the Spirit upon the Gentiles was in salvation history. So we may rejoice that God's love reaches out to us for we are descendants of Cornelius. He was the first but certainly not the last to receive the Spirit of God.
(Fr. Ver Bust is professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)