How do we lay down our lives?

By: By Father Tom Kelly

Sixth Sunday of Easter/May 10
Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26,34-35,44-48; Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

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In today’s Gospel passage, John puts these words of Jesus to the disciples at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I have loved you.” The “as” carries the message that we must imitate Jesus who laid down his life for us when he died on the cross.

The question must be asked: “How and in what way are we to lay down our lives for one another?”

A story told by James K. Healy illustrates how one father laid down his life for his son:

“It was a dilemma for my grandfather. The pastor had ordered his son, my father, to do public penance — to kneel at the altar rail throughout a Sunday Mass. Why? To repent for failing to show for an altar boy assignment. But the absence was not my father’s fault. It was Grampa’s. He’d kept his son home to help with essential family chores. Back then, people had such reverence for priests, even when they weren’t being very priestly, that my grandfather simply told my father, ‘Do as the pastor said.’

“Imagine the shame my father must have felt as he went up the aisle to be humiliated in front of the whole parish at the sacrifice of the Mass. His legs trembled as he knelt. He wished he were dead. Suddenly, his humiliation was transformed. He felt a hand on his shoulder, looked up and saw his father, kneeling by his side.

“I’m sure that my father, when he was a little boy, had already been taught clearly by his sisters and his parents that God is love and God forgives. But I doubt it ever was so real to him as that day he felt a hand on his shoulder, looked up and saw his dad, ready to share his shame.”

That gesture of love — and it came at a cost for the father — spoke volumes to the little boy. That’s how God loves us.

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FATHER TOM Kelly, a former pastor in Ottawa and Bartonville and chaplain at the Newman Foundations at the University of Illinois in Champaign and Bradley University in Peoria, is a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria. He resides in Peoria.

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