As Christians, we know that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us so. Jesus the good shepherd who “calls [each of us] by name” and he has come so that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:3,10).
How then do we love Jesus? Jesus makes it clear in this week’s gospel reading, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). If we love him not merely by words but also by works, Jesus will ask his Father to send us the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of truth” to “abide with” us by his presence within the Church; as well, he will be “in us” by his dwelling within each of God‘s children individually (Jn 14:17; Ref Ignatius Catholic Study Bible P190).
Jesus “loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end”, he loves his disciples completely to the giving of his life on the cross (Jn 13:1). He wants to give his disciples a memorial of this love, so he promises them that after he leaves this world, he will not leave them “orphaned”(Jn 14:18); his spiritual presence will continue until the end of time. Christ is present in his church, in the liturgy where he ministers through his priests, speaks through the Scriptures and sanctifies us through the sacraments. In his Eucharistic presence, he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loves us and gives himself up for us (Ref ICSB P190, CCC 788,1380).
In the first reading, Philip proclaims the Christ to the people of Samaria. They listen eagerly to what Philip said, they see and hear the many signs that he does, driving out unclean spirits and healing the sick. They embrace the gospel and there is great joy in Samaria (Ref Acts 8:14). The Samaritans being distant descendants of the northern tribes of Israel were considered impure by the Jews because their ancestors married foreign immigrants and honoured foreign gods (Ref 2 Kings 17:24). Despite centuries of racial and religious tensions between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus shows mercy to the latter. During his encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, he sets the precedent for outreach to them. Philip’s successful ministry in Samaria displays the power of the gospel to make friends of enemies, many accept his message and have been “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:17; Ref ICSB P220, Jn 4:7, 39–42). The apostles Peter and John are called to Samaria to examine and endorse their faith. They lay hands on them and they receive the Holy Spirit thereby bringing the first non-Jews into the family of faith (Ref ICSB P 220, Acts 8:14-17).
Since the days of the early church, St Peter urges the faithful to be mindful of demands for an explanation of “the hope that is in [us]” (second reading, 1 Peter 3:15). He teaches us to be always ready “to make [a] defense” with reasoned articulation of our faith and to disarm any attacks against it with “gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15,16; Ref ICSB 455). Here again, St Peter also reminds us that works is as important as words; we must keep a “clear conscience” and have “good conduct in Christ” (1 Peter 3: 16). Amen!