'Remain in my love'
Posted: Tue, 04 May 2021 13:49
The themes of friendship and love in the Gospel for 6th Sunday of Easter (John 15: 9-17) are explored in this refection by Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB. Image: LiturgyTools.net CC-BY-SA 3.0
Today our gospel fills me with hope as I am reminded of the deep friendship of God—a friendship that is real and impacts our lives for good. I hope and pray that you have that friend you can rely on: they are there for you in your darkest hour and can be relied on when others are busy or just do not care. Friendship is essential in our lives and we need to feel the connection that 'vine and branches' alerted us to last week. Today Jesus invites us 'to remain in my love', a love that we saw play out during Holy Week. We saw the care, understanding and acceptance as Jesus lived the command to 'love one another as I have loved you.'
We have seen that one 'can have no greater love than to lay down your life' for your friends. The events of Holy Week have shown us what these words mean: the events of this past year have helped us to see who exactly we can count on. We may have lost friendship during this pandemic, but we have come to see those who are prepared to stand with us. The first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, 'Deus Caritas Est', begins with the words of today's second reading, 'God is love' and goes on to explain what love entails. Indeed, all human love springs from a foundational fact: 'God is love.' While this line appears only once in the Bible, it is the core which gives the whole Bible its deepest meaning. Having made clear that 'God is love', scripture tells us that we are God's children since we are 'created in God's image and likeness' (Gen 1:26), and the greatest example of true love is set by Abba's Son, our elder brother, Jesus. He washes his disciples' feet before exhorting us to 'love one another as I have loved you.' Jesus then proceeds to symbolically break bread and sacrifice his life at Calvary out of love for us. Christian love, therefore, is about bending down, washing feet, serving people, breaking body, shedding one's own blood: a selfless ready-to-die love.
Christian love is never exclusive—as we see in the ministry and words of Jesus, all are welcomed to share in that live. A true Christian seeks to expand the horizons of her or his love by loving more and more people deeply; we have no right to limit God's love by our negativity and finger pointing. The first reading tells us 'the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.' Gentiles were regarded as 'outsiders', but not for Jesus. Thus, the more one can love others 'outside one's circle', the more Christ-like one can be.
Today we are invited to 'remain' in the love of the Trinity—the living core of Christian life. How do we remain in the love of God? Where do we receive the love of God? Just as we show love to another by spending quality time with that person, we can receive the love of God by spending quality time in reflection and prayer. Quality time is not just a hurried grace before or after meals, or a hurried prayer last thing at night. Today, you might want to spend some time in prayer: I always felt deeply honoured to spend that quality time at the end of the day with family members in pre-Covid days. In God's love, those days will return.
'If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love'; in fact, when living that life of Jesus, commandments do not even seem like rules and regulations, just the natural way to live. So how do we remain in the love of Jesus? The answer is simple and Jesus himself gives us the answer; we remain in the love of God by keeping the commandments. This is not a restriction at all but pure joy because it all flows from spending quality time with Jesus, our family and our friends, and allowing them to spend quality time with us.
Enjoy that quality time during this coming week and perhaps reflect on Evelyn Underhill's meditation on the 'Our Father':
Love is always to be recognised and adored for it is the signature of God lying upon creation; often smudged and faded, almost blotted out, yet legible to the eyes which have been cleansed by prayer.
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB