6 Sunday Easter B 2012
The two men came to visit.
“I still believe in the old faith,” one of them said.
“The old faith? What faith?”
“I mean our faith before they started talking about love all the time. There was right and wrong and punishment. There was fear of God and the following of the law. Everything has been watered down and made easy.”
As for love, the Gospels and Epistles would fragment into a million pieces without it. Our saints would be incomprehensible, our heroes nonexistent. And Jesus would not be. “For God so loved the world that he sent. . .”
“Love is of God. Everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. The person without love has known nothing of God, for God is love. Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and has sent his Son as an offering for our sins.” How could we imagine a Christianity before love became its center?
Jesus, in the fourth Gospel, calls us to live in that love. How are we to do that? By keeping his commandments. Ah, finally the law, finally right and wrong. And what is his commandment? ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.’ This is the central text of today’s Gospel reading and indeed one could consider it one of the most fundamental texts of the Christian faith.
There is no escape. Our faith in Jesus is haunted by the mystery of love. And yet it seems at first sight to contain a basic contradiction. How can one be commanded to love? We are all well aware that genuine love, real authentic love, must by definition be an entirely free choice. So how can Jesus ‘command’ us to express love one for another?
This is the command of our creator, sustainer and redeemer and his command to love is entirely in our best interests. This command to love is above all other rules because it is concerned with helping us to conform to our true nature.
One of Father Timothy Radcliffe’s books is called ‘What’s the Point of Being a Christian?’ He explains, that freedom is not about having a lot of choices; it is not about being able to pick and choose depending on our whims.
No, it is about doing what is good because that is what we most deeply desire.
The final result is that we will have learned to conform our will to that of God and come to realize that what he wants is actually also what we want. This is the way to achieve real fulfilment as a human person.
We can see this in the life of Jesus. He freely chose to undergo the suffering and death on the Cross because it was the Father’s will. To the Christian this was obedience to the Father in its highest form but it was also a completely free act. It was free because it was entirely in keeping with his true nature. It was his spontaneous response to the Father’s will.
In 1941, the German army began to round up Jewish people in
Jesus' command to love contains a critical subordinate clause, "as I have loved you!" What was unique in the way he loved us?
Jesus stretches us beyond our natural instincts and beyond all natural human goals to love strangers and even our enemies, to be warm to those who are cold to us, to be kind to those who are cruel to us, to do good to those who hate us, to forgive those who hurt us, to forgive those who won't forgive us, and ultimately, to love and forgive those who are trying to kill us.
Love is not easily won, rarely found, and never really earned. True love is sacrificial. Gratitude for this gift of sacrificial love also motivates us to love God in return. This is all summed up in the statement that God is love. We are not told that God loves, but that God is love. There is no power other than love to draw us to this depth of communion and care for the other: this is salvation.
In the Gospel Jesus uses this phrase: “Remain in my love.” He tells us that we remain in His Love if we keep His commandments. But Jesus doesn’t give a whole list of commandments like Moses did when he came down from
That is all that really matters, if we love each other, truly, in the sacrificial love of the Lord, everything else falls into place.
Everybody needs love. It is when we look for love "in all the wrong places", that unhappiness results. The commandments protect us from falling for the counterfeits, the shams and the lies that often pass for love in our world.
Joy comes with the moral life lived in love of God and neighbor, not one in which the commandments are kept only out of fear. St. Basil, (c. 330-379), teaches how to do good and find joy in it: "If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, ...we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands...we are in the position of children."
There are many persons in the world who wonder why they find no happiness in going to Mass, in living a morally good life, by good works and faithfulness in prayer. All of these things must be done, but if the fire of God's own love is not present in them they will not bring joy, will fail to satisfy. Duty without spirit is drudgery.
This love is found in Jesus himself, who gave his life for us, but it is also found everywhere in life: in loving family and friends, in the blessings and successes of life, in every flower and gentle breeze.