“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10
Not A Suggestion but A Loving Command.
We are getting close to the end of the Easter season. Soon we will celebrate the disciples receiving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and their being sent out to preach what they experienced and learned from the Risen Lord. If they were asked to sum up what their experience with Jesus was, what would they say? I am sure they would respond by saying: 'in the end, HIS LOVE triumphed'. Sin and death and brutal powers did their best to Jesus, but his love both human and divine was the winner. That realization would enable the disciples to say that even though death and sin seem to have the last word in our world, but because of Jesus' victory, love will triumph. It feels at times that good and evil are battling it out. How can the forces of love win out over so many destructive brutal displays of sin in the world? Still, God's love for us, shown in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, has won the victory over sin and death.
In the gospel reading of John (15:9-17) we find a summary of what has been given to us as disciples of Christ. It also holds a promise we can trust while we wait love's final victory. The love Jesus had for those he calls "friends," moved him to lay "down his life" for us. He remind us that; "You did not choose me, no, I chose you." He freely "chose" us, and gave us concrete signs of his love. That love has the power to transform our lives and then, through us, the life of the world. Robin Maas in her book Crucified Love, offers a wonderful insight: “Few, if any of us, will be called to martyrdom; but all of us are called to a series of little deaths in the form of invitations to restrain or deny self….The sending of God by God was the sending of Love – a crucified Love willing to lay down its life for friends and enemies alike. Your mission and mine – which we can only perform insofar as we are in communion with God and with one another – is to submit, out of love for one another, to countless, daily ‘little deaths’ until we have yielded every least and last remnant of self to the purpose of Christ.” (pages 98, 121)
Jesus is saying, 'I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another' (15:17). The Beatles sing the song, "All You Need Is Love" and many who hear it will hear different messages. It is true that all we need is love - but who's love? and what love? When we get past all the sentimental feeling and greeting card sweetness we have the teaching of Jesus. All you need is love is true - his type of love. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (15:12) As I have loved you??? No one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (15:13). Oh! Yes!!! That type of love. John reminds us that the kind of love Christians are called to embody takes a particular, cruciform shape. We hear this truth in Jesus' words, "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love."(15:9) The experience of Christ's love for us makes it possible for us to love others, even our enemies. The phrase "... as I have loved you ..." refers not only to his gentle generous giving but also to his willingness to bravely lay down his life by suffering for others. The first letter from John (4:7-10), our second reading, announces a similar truth. "Let us love one another, since love comes from God." We can love one another because God's love is at work in us transforming our lives, and moving us from being self-centred to being other-centred.
From the moment we are created, God constantly offers himself to be with us. In the mythological accounts of the Book of Genesis God dwells with humans in the garden of Paradise, wanting to be close. But they/we try to hide from God, not responding when God calls. It is only when Jesus came that we realised that it was not God who forbade our access to the tree of life, but our own stubbornness and disobedience. It was necessary for us that Jesus the Word of God should start anew a conversation with us, to breach the distance, to restore God’s presence to us. The desire of God to share divine life and love with us is expressed by Christ who says: ‘I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you’. In Christ, God gives us a sign of true love and friendship. There is no end to this great love even if we are faithless, ‘He remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.’(2 Tim 2:13) Doesn't friendship require giving not just receiving? Yes, it does require mutuality and sharing, so God gives us the Holy Spirit; the Gift from above of love's power, so we can return love for love. And we are made heirs of the Kingdom by being made one with Christ, who emptied himself to become one of us, to become our equal - to be our friend. Now he prays that our joy may be full; that is, as love-driven-disciples we may achieve loves fulfilment of the vision of God, by DOING day-by-day through our 'little deaths' loves work of selfless service. (See: Matthew 25)