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The 6th Sunday of Easter Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I have a Korean friend. Sometime we talk on the phone. But the first words that come from his mouth every time he calls me are “what are you doing?” He doesn’t say “How are you?” or “how have you been?” He starts his phone calls with, “What are you doing?” I get tired of reporting to him what I am doing before we start our conversations. One day I asked him why he always starts a conversation with me by asking what I am doing. He said, “I am just curious.” And he keeps doing it. Therefore, I still feel like doing some things is more important than being as I am. Every time he calls, I still tell him what I am doing. Honestly I feel like I am supposed to do something before I make phone calls or receive his phone calls. 

Which one do you think is more important? Doing or being? Do you think actions are more important than existence? Do you think what you are doing defines who you are? People discuss “Doing” and “being” to try to figure out which one is more meaningful. We see a little bit of this tension between “doing” and “being” in the story of Martha and Mary in Lk 10:38-42. When Jesus visits the sisters, Martha is doing something in the kitchen to serve Jesus, and Mary is listening to Jesus at his feet. They say that Martha is symbolic of “doing” while Mary is symbolic of “being.” Which one do you think is more valuable? Doing or being?

Today’s Gospel is full of love statements. Jesus uses the word, ‘love’ nine time in only 8 verses: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love…This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” When we hear the word, ‘love,’ we probably are drawn to thinking that we are doing ‘love,’ or we put it into action. But in Jesus’ statements, there is no conditions to love. He says, “l also love you because my Father loves me.” It has no connotation that Jesus loves us because we are doing something good. Jesus’ love touches our being without any conditions. The Father loves Jesus so that Jesus loves us. It naturally comes from the existence of Jesus and the nature of the Holy Trinity.

And then Jesus frames His commandment: “love one another as I love you.” We can find no conditions in this sentence either. We are also asked to come right to the core of our friends’ beings with Jesus’ love. No conditions are allowed in that love commandment. Jesus’ love has nothing to do with what we are doing, but is deeply connected with our being itself.

In the Middle Eastern value system, “being” is the primary preference. It entails a spontaneous response to a certain stimulus of a moment. This is more like children dancing as a response to a flute somebody is playing in the market. This is a part of Jesus’ analogy in Mt 11:16-17. Do you remember that? If someone dies, we mourn and grieve. It is spontaneous. This prompt response is always associated the primary value, “being.” If people don’t have appropriate responses like the children and people in the market, they are considered uncooperative. In this same value system, “doing” is a calculated and planned activity which is the secondary option. In this context, the fact that Jesus brings love into the primary value system, “being,” means integrity in our love. When he says, “love each other as I love you,” He asks us not to do ‘love,’ but to plunge our beings into the core of people’s beings themselves. Jesus loves people without any conditions. In other words, Jesus loves us not because we do something good but because we ARE His children. Our existence itself is the only condition to get Jesus’ love.

We can find this equality of Jesus’ love in today’s first reading. When Peter comes to Cornelius’ house, this first convert Gentile does him homage, and kneels. Peter raises him up and says, “Get up. I myself am also a human being…In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” God’s unconditional love goes right to the core of Cornelius through the mouth of Peter. This is the love we are speaking about today. Jesus’ love is deeply related to the primary value, “being” of people whether they are Jews or Gentiles. God’s love has no partiality.

A famous book of a psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, “To Have or to Be?” tells us that the modern society has become more materialistic and prefers “having” to “being.” Your social status is determined by how much you have. Therefore, he suggests that people should ponder more on a “being” nature and not toward a “having” nature. But this “having” oriented attitude is applied not only to materials, but also to talents, capabilities, and competence. When someone is useful, we think he or she is valuable. When someone’s capability is profitable, we think he or she is beneficial.

But according to today’s readings, Jesus’ love has nothing to do with how much we have, how useful we are, and how talented we are. Jesus’ love is not partial. Jesus loves us as we are. Jesus’ love comes right to the core of our beings. This is why we call this love unconditional. And Jesus gives us the commandment: “love one another as I love you.” We are sent to reach out to people’s beings with Jesus’ love. We are supposed to love them not because they are “doing” something valuable but because they “are” friends and children of Jesus. In this mass, let us ask God to give us eyes to see through to people’s “beings” instead of their “doings” whether they are old or young, women or men, Catholics or non-Catholics. And then the world will finally know what God’s love means.

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