Sixth Sunday of Easter
01 May 2024

Reading I: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm: Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Reading II: 1 Jn 4:7-10
Gospel: Jn 15:9-17


One gorgeous Saturday morning a couple and their toddler, Tommy, found a perfect spot right at the tide line of an ocean beach. Tommy sort of understood what a beach is, and he freely celebrated utter amazement at everything in sight. It was one of those sacred moments that parents have – seeing the world through a child’s eyes – absolute wonder, seeing everything new and exciting for the first time! Tommy lived pure joy that was contagious for anyone in view, as he grabbed handfuls of sand and let it run through his fingers or watched gulls diving into the ocean. As mom, dad, and Tommy dug around in the sand, the water would come right up to them, bringing all sorts of shell fragments. Tommy “Oohed” and “Ahhhhed” as they playfully grabbed sand and shells and letting the receding water wash them away.

At one point, dad caught a tiny little shell in his hand, about the size of Tommy’s thumbnail. The tiny half of a shell was strikingly beautiful. Pure white flecked with deep coral red, and strong though impossibly thin, dad managed to pick it out and hang on to it, and he showed it to mom, who was equally impressed by it. They then showed it to Tommy, who thinking it was a tasty morsel, promptly tried to eat it. But dad quickly pulled back the fragment, tossing it into the oncoming water, and it was washed away.

Of all the millions of shells and fragments washing up just on that beach, this one tiny shell happened to wash ashore at that moment, and this dad grasped its unique beauty! And amidst all the multitude of people on the beach that day, just three people were able to see and appreciate that shell’s unique beauty in that moment.  I sincerely hope that all people have such awesome moments of that kind!

Such moments can make one stop and consider how extraordinary each of us is; how utterly amazing it is that, in all of the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, on one small planet, at one brief moment in time, you were aware of beauty. Alternatively, when thinking in those terms, you might construe seeing a pretty shell of little consequence. Indeed, on a cosmic scale, why should it matter? Or you might dare to think that your experience of beauty is even more amazing because of how astoundingly unlikely it is that you’d exist and could appreciate beauty in the first place!

Such realizations suggest what is known within the Christian tradition, as the “scandal of particularity.” Christians claim that Jesus is the Son of God. The “scandal” is that Jesus was a particular person who lived in a particular place and time. And the question that the scandal raises is this: “Amid the vast possibilities of the universe, how can one person be so important? How can one person’s existence affect the entire human race – even beyond that, the entire cosmos?” To this Christians reply: Love is the reason, extravagant LOVE!  It’s sort of like how finding one beautiful shell on the beach matters even on the cosmic scale.

Love is most vividly known in the particular: A first century Jew who was willing to die to show us the truth about God; One person dropping everything and traveling hundreds of miles to sit with grieving relatives; Spouses forgiving one another; Taking a friend to chemotherapy; Checking in on an elder; or providing childcare so a single parent can attend a concert.

In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.  1 Jn. 4: 9-10.


Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF, Ph.D.
The Erica and Harry John Family Professor of Catholic Theological Ethics