Sixth Sunday of Easter
“If you’re good at the restaurant, we can have dessert,” the parents said to their children. It was one in a string of many negotiations they made to encourage good behavior. As it happened, behavior was good, and everybody was able to order dessert. The next day, the parents said, “If your room is clean, you can go out to play.” After some delay, all the children cleaned their rooms enough to earn some outside time. These kinds of conditional promises may be familiar to parents, children, teacher, students, and more. We might be a bit surprised to hear one open the gospel passages this weekend (John 14:15-21). Jesus says to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” While this is not exactly the same as the two examples above, the conditional nature of the statement is similar.
Another way to restate what Jesus said might be this: “When you keep my commandments, I know you love me.” What precisely are Jesus’ commandments? In the Gospel of John, the commandments are as simple and profound as this: “Love one another” (John 13:34; cf. John 15:12). Most of the other ethical demands Jesus cites in the Gospel of John are rooted in the Ten Commandments. So, we might say that when we love one another, we demonstrate that we love Jesus. Put another way, when we do not love one another, we demonstrate that we are not loving Jesus. But loving one another can be challenging. It’s like the comedian said: “I love humanity, just not human beings.” We are called to love not only in the abstract, but in particularity. The gospel passage closes with these words: “And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” When we continue to develop into loving human beings, who express that love in service to others, we experience the love of God. Christ himself is revealed in the loving relationships we have with one another, and for that reason these relationships may be considered “holy.” The entire gospel can be summed up by this Johannine emphasis on the love of God, the love of Christ, and the command for us to love one another.
As Christians we seek to follow the example of Christ, who poured himself out in love for his friends. Especially in the Gospel of John, we hear the word “love” often. For example, “God so loved the world that he sent his only son” (John 3:16), the simple and straightforward “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and of course the command to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12). The command seems so simple, but it is very difficult to carry out. Here we have no list of duties or acts to perform, such as going to church or saying certain prayers. Instead, we have the profound command to love. Love knows no limits and there is not a point when we say “enough.” Love sees the other as another self, so that the needs of the other are as important as our own. When modern communication has made the world a global village, the needs of our neighbors can seem overwhelming.
Where do we stop? Yet, we are called to move beyond ourselves as Jesus did and to place our lives in service of the other, in imitation of him. Then we may merit the name “disciple,” when we are known by our love.
A few days ago, I received a mailing from Mt. Angel Abbey and Seminary where I completed my theology studies, it included the following prayer:
Prayer for Peace in the Storm
Living God, our refuge and strength, even the wind and sea obey your voice. Put the wind back in it’s place, and say to the sea: Quiet! Be still! Fill us with great faith, and save us from the surging water, so that we may tell the good news of your saving love; through Jesus Christ our hope in the storm. Amen. The monks of Mt. Angel and I invite you to pay this prayer as often as you wash your hands throughout the day.
Ad Multos Annos!
Fr. Bernard Starman