Over the last few weeks of Easter readings we’ve seen the Church gradually understand that the Gospel was meant to go beyond the confines of Judaism to other cultures and, ultimately, to every culture, including Cornelius. The Church is reaching new frontiers in her mission to spread the Gospel. Today those cultural confines are not always ethnic or geographic: they can be person to person.
In today’s First Reading we see one of the culminating moments in the early Church: the Holy Spirit helping the first disciples to take the Gospel beyond Judaism. Saint Peter did not meet Cornelius, a Roman centurion, on his own initiative. The Holy Spirit told him to go with the men Cornelius sent. Cornelius was a God-fearing man despite the fact that he’d never heard the Gospel and received a vision telling him to seek out Peter. Jewish law prevented Peter from entering the home of a non-Jew, but in a vision the Lord told him to enter Cornelius’ home. When Saint Peter saw that Cornelius was a God-fearing man he recognized the work of the Lord in his soul, and the Holy Spirit was active in him. Saint Peter ordered them baptized, and the Gospel was brought to a new frontier, beyond the confines of Judaism.
In today’s Second Reading the apostle and evangelist Saint John reminds us that there are no confines to the love of God, so there should be no confines to our love either. An experience of God is an experience of love. Without that experience it would be no surprise if we didn’t love at all. We experience God, and his love, through Christ. He was sent so that we could have life. Our Lord put no limits on his love and he teaches us to push our own limits too. It took time for the first disciples to realize that the love of Christ had not limits. It takes time for us too. We put limits on our love and have to push on to new frontiers.
Jesus in today’s Gospel teaches us that the Gospel spreads to the degree that we love one another. The Gospel spreads to the degree that people realize God is willing to lay down his life for them. They find that out when we show a similar friendship. Our Lord wants our relationship with him, as well as our fellow man, to be one of friendship, not domination. The mark of true friendship is your willingness to sacrifice for the sake of your friend. The good news of the Gospel is that Our Lord laid down his life for us and wants to be our friend, not just our master. When we second that concern for others, striving to be their friend, we spread the Gospel.
Our Lord teaches us this Sunday that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friend. Make an extra effort this week to go out of your way for a friend, especially a friend who needs it.
Readings: Acts 10:25–26, 34–35, 44–48; Psalm 98:1–4; 1 John 4:7–10; John 15:9–17.