The love theme in the second readings of Easter, Year B

April 27, 2012

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St. John the Evangelist with book and quill at St. Michael in Madison, WI.

Love: Unifying Thread of the Second Readings of Easter B. Love is the hub around which the second readings of Easter, Year B, rotate. This series is taken from the First Letter of John, the sequence begins on Week Two and continues to Week Six, and love is mentioned in every scripture passage.

An Extension of the Gospel of John. The centrality of love in 1 John closely coincides with the love message in John’s gospel. Jesus spoke emphatically about the importance of love when he said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another” (Jn 13:34a; 15:17). If a disciple does not know precisely how to do this, Jesus instructed his followers to imitate him: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). For Jesus, love is the litmus test of discipleship, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). He further explained that his type of love is sacrificial, “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

Love, a Timely Easter Message. Love is one of the most tangible ways that the risen Christ abides with us after his Ascension to heaven. Also, as early Christian churches were established, love acted as the unifier and harmonizer in communities with newly baptized converts from a wide range of languages, nations, and cultural practices.

Easter Week Two B, 1 Jn 5:1-6. The word “love” appears five times in the first selection of the series taken from the final chapter of the letter. The love of God and neighbor are inseparably intertwined: “We know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments” (1 Jn 5:2).

Easter Week Three B, 1 Jn 2:1-5. Love is purified and perfected when disciples adhere obediently, meticulously, and faithfully to God’s commandments: “Whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him” (Jn 2:5).

Easter Week Four B, 1 Jn 3:1-2. The love that disciples are to extend to others begins with the love that God first extends to us: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1a), and the Father bestowed this love when he sent us Jesus: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn 3:16).

Easter Week Five B, 1 Jn 3:18-24. John begins by admonishing the members of his community to not give lip service to love, “Children, let us love not in word of speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18); and then he refers to Jesus’ original teaching, “His commandment is this … love one another just as he commanded us” (1 Jn 3:23).

Easter Week Six B, 1 Jn 4:7-10. The most powerful statement is kept for last and acts as a grand conclusion: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Hence, the greater the love, the greater the presence of the risen Christ! The letter encourages believers: “Let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God” (1 Jn 4:7).

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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