2024 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Published: May 5, 2024

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Seminarian Admission to Candidacy Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Saturday, May 4, 2024, and confirmation Mass at St. Joseph Church in Pine Bluff on Sunday, May 5, 2024.

Bishop Taylor

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples and to us: “Remain in my love!” Contained in those four little words is a hidden treasure. I say that because “remaining” in his love means we are already there, “in his love.”

In fact, we have always been “in his love” from all eternity, even before we were born. Even the worst sinner in the world is still loved by God.

Mother Teresa put it this way: “When we look at the cross, what do we see? We see Jesus’ head bent down to kiss us. Look at his pierced hands, they are saying to us, “I love you. We see his arms stretched out on the cross, as if to embrace us. We see his heart opened wide to receive us.”

Is such a love even possible for us humans? Jesus says to love each other as he loves each of us. So he apparently thinks this is possible — maybe difficult — but still possible, and he shows us the way.

In today’s second reading, John gives us the best definition of God: “God is love.”  And John begins today’s Gospel by telling us about God the Father’s love for Jesus. The love within the Trinity is a mystery, but we do know that it’s a love that is deep, personal and self-sacrificing. This is the love Jesus wants to share with us: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes how much he loves us by telling us that no one has a greater love than this — to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And that’s the same type of love Jesus is asking of us when he says, “Remain in my love.”

Have the same type of love that nailed him to the cross. Have a love that doesn’t count the cost. A love that is sacrificial, unselfish and unconditional — a love that includes everyone.

Is such a love even possible for us humans? Jesus says to love each other as he loves each of us. So he apparently thinks this is possible — maybe difficult — but still possible, and he shows us the way.

Remember those four little words, where Jesus told us to remain in his love? Those words are the hidden treasure I was talking about, the key to loving others as Jesus did. “To remain in my love” means to see others as Jesus sees them. That’s the difficult part of love.

In a few minutes, I will invite Sam Stengel and Phil Necessary to come forward to declare their intention to complete their seminary formation so that in due time, through holy orders, they will be prepared to be agents of God’s love in the life and ministry of the Church and society at large.

They will declare that they are resolved to prepare themselves in mind and spirit to give faithful service to Christ the Lord and his body, the Church. Those are beautiful words — just like all the beautiful words about love in today’s readings, but they are not just words. Phil and Sam, these words commit you to action, that you do all in your power to prepare yourselves for all that lies ahead in your future ministry as priests. As we say actions speak louder than words.

So, I would like to leave you with this thought: Some of the words that you and I pray several times every single day are the words: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray these words in every Mass, six times in every rosary, during Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and countless other times as well: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

And to what extent is God’s will done in heaven? Completely, right? And the heart of God’s will is love. So, we are praying that God’s will, God’s love, be manifest completely on earth as well. But notice, when we pray those words, we’re not just expressing a wish in the abstract that somehow or another God’s will gets done, far from it.

By saying those words, we’re committing ourselves to a course of action: that we will embody God’s loving will on earth as completely as we possibly can, “as it is in heaven,” which of course means perfectly.

It doesn’t do much good to say we want God’s will to be done if we’re not trying our best to do God’s will ourselves. And that’s what has brought you to this moment in your life today.

Sam and Phil, you have discerned God’s call to the priesthood, that the priesthood is his will for you, and today you commit yourselves publicly to cultivate more fully your vocation so that his “will may be done” by you “on earth” as hopefully it also will be done by you one day “in heaven.”