(A commentary on John 15: 9-17)
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 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. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another. (John 15:9-17)
Did you even wonder why humans don’t understand God?
Humans can never understand God because we think of him as thinking as we do. We even ascribe human values to him. We, at times, engage him in dialogue expecting a human response to him.
Nothing tells us more powerfully about how God “thinks” than today’s Gospel. Not only that but it is truly his manifesto for us.
Jesus tells us, “Just as the Father loves me, so I love you.” We know that God the Father cannot possibly love God the Son more perfectly, or deeply, or better than he does. And Jesus is saying that he loves us just as much, just as profoundly, just as completely as God the Father loves him. That’s the true foundation of the Christian life, to live in the love of God.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells us, “Remain in my love.” He knows that many of us run away from love in general and his love in particular. Burning love from someone else can make us feel uncomfortable because we may not think we’re worthy of it, because we know that the only response to love is to love back and we fear we may not be capable of it. Love is meant to change us, to lift us up, and sometimes we don’t want to cooperate with that resurrection.
He tells us clearly how to remain in his love. “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” We can’t remain in his love if we break the commandments, not because he’ll pull his love away from us — his love is everlasting and he’ll never retract it — but because the commandments all train us how love to live in the love of God and in the love of neighbor.
Following Jesus on this road of love will take us where we would not choose to go. He will lead us to people whose deeds anger us, whose presence fills us with fear, whose lives make us weep. And he will say to us again and again: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus will open our eyes to that which we do not want to see, the depths of human suffering and the suffering of the earth itself, its waters and land and sky. And he will say, “Love as I have loved. Go and bear fruit.”
We are not sent out alone, but we go with one another. We travel together, you and I, with other pilgrims, other branches who are clinging to the Vine for dear life. And together we will sing the pilgrim’s song: “Show me the way to go home.”
And we will hear the voice of Jesus say, “My self-giving love is the way; my promise is your only home.”
Prayer of The Day
“Hold fast to us, O Christ our Vine, and fill us with your life, that we might bear the fruit of love and always and only be at home in the heart of God. Amen.”
Too often, humans think that living the faith becomes completing some vague list of minimum attendance requirements. The truth is, we were meant to live in the love of Christ and to go forth and share the love of Christ. The two are not separate but, instead, are intimately connected. Jesus makes that clear. If you are going to remain in his love, then you are called to love like he does.