Sunday Gospel Reading
6th Sunday of Easter May 6, 2018
Readings: Acts. 10 :25–26 ;34–35 ; 4 –48 ; Ps. 98:1–4; 1 John. 4:7–10; John 15, 9–17.
This week’ Gospel reading reminds us of the most important commandment of the whole Law: love [cf. Mt. 22:39–40]. In the Gospel of John this commandment is expressed in universal categories as a way of existence, style of life, credo of a truly disciple of Christ. Its origins have to be found in the Heavenly life of the Holy Trinity. As the same evangelist declares, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). The heavenly example of a sacrificial love: this is the meaning of the Greek verb agapao used throughout the whole Gospel. Another meaningful marker of this portion is the verb abide, dwell, remain: altogether rendered by the Greek term meno. His Hebrew equivalent, vb. shakhan, provides us with an image mostly reiterated by the Rabbis: Shekina, the Presence of God, Our Beloved. In this sense, God renders Himself present in our lives when we follow His example of love and “lay down our life for our friends” (Jn 15:13). That is the second great feeling of God towards us which we are told to imitate: fili,a (friendship). Cf. Jam. 4:4. So, Jesus Himself can testify that “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15:14). In the Hebrew Bible “to be a friend of God” (rea) becomes a brilliant metaphor of a righteous, pious and devoted man or woman who is enabled speak with the Lord “face to face”: cf. Ex. 33:11.
This intimacy and closeness to the Lord grant us a privilege to dwell in His love, to stay in front of Him, to be His friends, yet not servants. In fact, the Apostle exemplifies that principle – the “law of love” – in the following sentence: “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family” (Eph. 2:19). Nevertheless in the inter-testamental period the precept of love was a subject of hot discussions between the Rabbis. For example, questioning who must be neighbor to love (cf. Lv. 19:18), R. Hillel who elaborated a general principle: “You shall love peace and research peace, you shall love the creatures and make them approach the Torah” (cf. Abot 1:12; 1:2; b.Sota 14a). On the contrary, the Pharisaic leaders used to consider the word “neighbor” in a restrictive way on the basis of Lv. 19:34=Dt 10:19; i.e., this term referred exclusively to a fellow citizen or a stranger who decided to establish his or her dwelling in Israel. Finally, in the Post-talmudic exegesis a fellow man or woman was simply reduced to an observant Jew [Neudecker, 499–501].
This short picture of different opinions shows how challenging is the commandment of love that urges us to go out of limits and false stereotypes of this world. In the First Letter of John (1 Jn. 4:7–10) there is a summary concerning such strategic topics as “to be born from God”, “to know God”, “Jesus as an atoning sacrifice (hilasmos) for our sins”. The knowing of God represents an ontological summit for a human being, a new step of existence as well as a great responsibility to be inserted in the continuum of loving kindness of Merciful God, misericordia Dei. Like in the Garden of Eden, once Adam started to experience the presence of a fellow woman, he became aware of a dialogic nature of love. Thus, the famous sentence “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8) can be adequately understood only in the context of “being in front of” somebody. That is what the Book of Genesis stresses out (Gn. 2:20): “for Adam there was not found a help like to himself [lit. “in front of him”: kenegdo. This dialogical unity of love – relationship “face to face” – is revealed by God Himself as the Psalm says: “The King is mighty, he loves justice – you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right” (Ps. 98:4). In fact, God’s justice is unthinkable without mercy, from the Rabbinic point of view. Finally, only love can make known to today’s world a Holy Name of the Lord Who truly loves His creation by judging and forgiving it at the same time.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How do I experience love of God & love to God in my daily life? 2. What is my understanding of a neighborhood regarding the precept of love? Is it possible nowadays to love everyone? 3. Which way or ways of existence, teaching and studying the Torah opens to me spiritually the Gospel motto “God is love”?
Bibliography: Artyushin, Colui che fa misericordia. Lc 10,25–37 in chiave comunicativa (Roma, 2009); Grilli, Quale rapporto tra i due Testamenti? Riflessione critica sui modelli ermeneutici classici concernenti l’unità delle Scritture (Bologna, 2007); Neudecker, «“And You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – I Am the Lord” (Lev 19,18) in Jewish Interpretation» (Biblica 73 (1992) 496-517).
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Philotheus Artyushin, Moscow Theol. Academy, Doctorate in Biblical Theology.
Bat Kol alumnus 2011 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.
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