Aristides, a non-Christian, defended Christians before the emperor Hadrian in the second century with these words: “Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who hurt them. If a man has something, he gives freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are happy, as though he were a real brother. They don’t consider themselves brothers or sisters in the usual sense. They consider themselves as having the same father, which is God. If they hear of someone in jail or persecuted for professing the name of their Redeemer, they give him what he needs… This is really a new kind of person. There is something divine in them.” Jesus tells us clearly in that the only way people will know that we are His disciples is if we have love for one another.
We live in a very competitive and broken society. As cruel and harsh as the society was at the time of the early church, the present breakdowns in family life, social structures, common decency, respect for human life and the human person, religious tolerance, law and order and the environment are far greater today. More Christians have died in the last century than all the other centuries put together.
But, at the same time, the forces and examples of true human compassion and love are even greater. And our call as Easter Christians is to manifest that kind of preserving love - “Just as I have loved you, you also must you love one another.”
Especially during these times when it seems that the negative forces are in the ascendancy, it is vital that we put into action the call of Christ to create “a new heaven and a new earth.”
It is the plan of the Risen Christ that “God dwells among us” and that through our individual cooperation with God’s grace, and through the work of the Church, we manifest the presence of God among his people. It is the plan of Christ that He dwells with us and that we shall be His People and that He shall be our God who is always with us.
The Poet Emily Dickinson wrote “Instead of getting to heaven at last, I’m going all along.” The point is that we as Catholics, are not called to sit passively and wait for heaven to come. God calls us to work “all along” with each other for that day when “He shall wipe away every tear from our eyes and when there will be no more weeping or mourning, crying out or pain”.
When things seem dark and gloomy, often that is when we are closest to breaking through; when we are most motivated to create a better society, to solve problems, to show true love and compassion.
Today, Christ nourishes us in Holy Communion. We are therefore asked by God to go forth to the whole world and proclaim the Good News. This is our time to put our shoulders to the wheel and be the best possible version of ourselves in the living and praying communities in our Parish and the Universal Church - to take care of the most vulnerable and to help others see the light of the Risen Christ working in their lives. This is another way of saying “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”