A command to love beyond boundaries

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B, 05/05/2024, Christ the King Parish, Kubwa, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama.

Readings: Acts 10:25-26. 34-35. 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

A command to love beyond boundaries.

On Friday I was here celebrating Mass in this Church of Christ the King, during my pastoral visit to Rex Christus College on Friday. We also celebrated the Mass of Cathedraticum on the 14th of March for Kubwa Deanery here in this parish Church. Today, my pastoral visit marks my third visit to your beloved parish in a very short time, which explains why I have told your parish priest, Fr. Christopher Damina that your parish is like a magnet. It keeps attracting the Bishop for one thing or the other.

I salute you all today and I congratulate you and your priests, Fr Christopher Damina, his associate, Fr. Humphrey Ayegba, and the other priests resident and assisting in the parish: Fr. Emmanuel Nyinya, Fr. Patrick Arowole and Fr. Lazarus Ishaku. We shall confirm 218 candidates, a huge number that shows that Pentecost is very close and the Holy Spirit is already at work in your parish.

Even though your parish is not celebrating Father’s Day today until next Sunday, permit me to greet from this pulpit all fathers in the Archdiocese as they celebrate their day. As we told the mothers when they celebrated their day three Sundays ago, fathers, like mothers, must be strong pillars in the home. Ensure that love becomes a necessary ingredient in the home and it must animate the family. The family is the first school of love. Parents must not fail to love their children equally and try as much as possible not to create some level of preference. Children must love their parents and their siblings and must open no room to discrimination.

Today’s readings portray the love of God for us and the type of love that should exist among us. Love is not just an emotion, a sentimental feeling; love is an action that not only warms our hearts but it is also that powerful force that transcends boundaries, that shapes our actions and interactions with others. For he who does not love, does not know God (1 John 4:7).

Your parish slogan: “CKC…. You before me” is a wonderful and meaningful slogan. You are saying in this slogan that you place the good of the other over and above yours. That is selfless love and that is the example our Lord gave us. He says in today’s Gospel, that no greater love can a man have, than that he lays down his life for his friends. He is the perfect example and model of selfless love. In correct English, we say, “you and I” and not “I and you.” This means you do not put yourself before others. Courtesy demands that as you show a visitor through the door, you say “after you”. We should put others first as St. Paul says in Philippians: 2:3, “Let nothing be done by contention, nor in vain glory. Instead, in humility, let each of you esteem others to be better than himself.”

What is expected of our leaders, whether spiritual, traditional, or political is a sacrificial love that is sympathetic, considerate, gentle, and kind. This love works for the good of the other and is not self-aggrandizing. This love is not arrogant, even when we think we are right and others are wrong. Sacrificial love is not selfish. Rather, it is an act of the will which seeks to serve and not to be served.

After Mother Theresa received a Nobel Prize, someone asked her, “How can we solve the world’s problems?” She replied, “Go home and love one another.” The one thing that is destroying our world today is hatred and intolerance. If only we can learn to love, just a little more, the world would be a better place to live in. There will be less hunger because resources will be equitably shared; there will be fewer killings because people will respect the lives of others; crime will be greatly minimized because neighbors will not want to harm one another. As it is said: Love makes the world go round.

The encounter of Peter and Cornelius in the first reading today teaches us that we must never as leaders or ordinary people exclude any person created in the image and likeness of God from our communion of love. Before his encounter with Cornelius, the Roman centurion, Peter, like many early Jewish Christians, held a narrow view of salvation. He believed it was primarily reserved for the Jewish people. However, through divine revelation and time, Peter’s perspective expanded. He came to realize that God’s love transcends ethnic boundaries and extends to the Gentiles.

Today’s readings remind us not to become insular in our thinking, forgetting the universality of salvation. We must realize that Jesus said, “There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead them too” (cf. John 10:16). His words categorically implied that His followers would extend beyond those already with Him. These yet-to-believe followers, he said, would respond to His voice. Cornelius, a devout Gentile, exemplified this truth. His encounter with Peter validated Jesus’ point. The Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household, affirming their place in God’s family. This pivotal moment opened the eyes of other Christians to embrace humanity—not solely Christianity and to see God as a “Universal God.”

Today, Christ, through His servant Peter, invites us to embrace radical inclusion. Shattering the myth of exclusion, marked a significant turning point in the early Church, indicating that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.” God’s blessing was never meant to be exclusive to any particular group; it was always intended for all nations. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recognized this truth:

Love for the other should be more than mere tolerance but whole acceptance. When we are selfish and refuse to love, we build a wall around ourselves and condemn ourselves to loneliness and bitterness. But when we love and care, the walls fall and we experience joy and peace. The love that Jesus recommends to us, is that which symbolizes total self-giving.

Both the second reading and the Gospel from John remind us of Christ’s immense love for humanity. They highlight Christ’s sacrificial love and describe how He willingly laid down His life for us, demonstrating the depth of His affection. We are called to remain in this love—to abide in the selfless, compassionate, and transformative love that Christ exemplified.

As human beings, we often fall short of the love that Jesus commands us to embrace. Despite our shortcomings, He extends His hand. God’s love defies human logic—it seeks out the lost, the broken, and the wayward. Since we are loved by God despite our infidelities, we should extend such love to one another, as we heard in today’s gospel: “What I command you, is to love one another.” As a command, it means that we do not have any option but to love one another. The reason is simple. We are products of love. We are called to be instruments of His love in the world, to reach out to those in need, to show compassion and kindness to all, and to work for justice and peace.

Let us break down barriers and celebrate our shared humanity. Today, our nation faces challenges, but love can be the solution. Let us love sacrificially, working for the common good. As Jesus called His disciples friends, let us see one another as friends, companions, brothers, and sisters on this journey.

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