5/18/2017 9:00:00 AM WORD OF FAITH Compelled by brotherly love
BY REV. ANTHONY LIGATO
FROM A READING FOR MAY 21, SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
'[Peter and John] went down and prayed for them...Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit....' - Acts 8:15,17
Cities often are known by nicknames that express their character and essence. Baltimore is known as "Charm City;" New York, "the Big Apple." But only Philadelphia can claim a nickname that inspires us to love as Jesus loves.
The name "Philadelphia," translated from the Greek, means "brotherly love." "Philos" is Greek for "love of a friend," and "adelphos" means "brother" in Greek. From these two words, the city of brotherly love gets its name: Philadelphia.
We are inspired by Jesus to love as our Savior loves -- unconditionally. This type of love, in Greek, is known as "agape." With unconditional love, we can love our brothers and sisters because Jesus Himself is our brother and friend.
As the Gospel of John (15:13-14) tells us, "No one has greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you."
It is in the Gospel for the sixth Sunday of Easter that we are first commanded to love as Jesus loves: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (Jn 14:15). What does it mean to be commanded to love as Jesus loves?
Cross is love
In the Gospel of John, the greatest expression of Christ's love is the cross. The cross is how the Son reveals His love for the Father, and through that expression of His love, He gives glory to God on the cross by laying down His life for us.
When Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," His command is for us to lay down our lives for our friend, who is Christ Himself. Since Jesus is our brother, we are all sisters and brothers in Christ, which means we are all called to lay down our lives for one another as Christ lays down His life for us.
We are never asked to do something by God without God giving us the ability to carry out that command. The Holy Spirit assists us in bringing to completion God's plan of salvation: "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to be with you always: the Spirit of truth" (Jn 14:16-17).
The Spirit compels to love as Jesus loves, in a brotherly manner which unites us to Christ as friend and brother. It is this love that brought Philip to the city of Samaria to "proclaim the Christ to them" (Acts 8;5-8,14-17). This is the love that gives glory to God, because it is a charitable love, an agape love which is selfless and unconditional.
This selfless, unconditional love gave Philip courage and joy. He was able to bring so many people to God because his faith allowed the Holy Spirit to work through him: "Many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in the city." Philip made Samaria a city of brotherly love by his cooperation with God's continued plan of salvation.
To be compelled by brotherly love means we are accepting a share in the suffering of the cross: "For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh he was brought to life in the Spirit" (1 Pt 3:15-18).
Agape is a charitable and generous love which must be shared with others. It brought Peter and John to Samaria to see what Philip was accomplishing, and they prayed with the people, to give them the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).
Our faith is not a personal faith which we keep to ourselves. We are given the Holy Spirit to evangelize. As Philip, Peter and John were compelled to share their brotherly love, we are compelled by the Spirit to do the same.