I wanna know what love is…I want you to show me…perhaps these words of the song popularized by so many singers may serve to situate us around the central message of the liturgical reading this Sunday, the sixth of Easter. It may be an uncommon approach, but it serves. The readings of the Easter season have revolved on our identification with Christ in the new life that he has won for us through his death and resurrection: now it is not I who live, but Christ living in me (cfr. Gal 2:20). This life is given to us in baptism, and finds its ultimate and fruitful expression in love, a love that is none other but the union we live with Jesus Christ. Now, this Sunday, the readings move to us to consider another aspect of this new life of love: the message is for us to be coherent in our love for God. What does this mean?
The main consequence of love is union; love is nothing else than being identified with the one whom we love, with the beloved. This is a union that is made evident especially whenever we sync ourselves with what our beloved wants. This is expressed clearly when St. Augustine mentions that Perfect love of God means the complete union of our will with God's .
“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love…you are my friends if you do what I command you”. These are the words that we hear from our Lord in the Gospel of this Sunday; they allow us to see the necessary relation between the concept of love and that of the commandments. Much before Christ, the commandments of God given over to Moses was the perfect expression of the divine will, according to the faith of the people of Israel. The Torah (the Law) was the supreme manifestation of the Lord to his people, the stipulation of the covenant made between them as the people of God and the Lord who claimed them as his own portion. It was at the center of their faith. But the Law of Sinai was given merely in preparation for its upcoming fulfillment in Jesus Christ, in whom, being the perfect image of the invisible God (cfr. Col. 1:15), the face of the God who is love is able to seen at last by man. It is in Jesus Christ that the commandments of God find their supreme expression, the law of love for God and neighbor: “Love one another”.
This love, however, could not be done in just any way. Man cannot define love all by himself. This is something we tend to do actually: take it and define it according to our convenience, to shape it and mold it according to our comfort. Such attempts at defining what love is, left to our own device, has shown disastrous results. I am not saying that man is incapable of defining love, but rather that he should not do it on his own: he should allow love to define him first. This was the reason why in the Gospel passage of John, Jesus was quick to add: “…as I have loved you”. Love—man’s love—is perfectly only in the measure that it is akin to the divine love which the Lord has shown to us through his own example. What then is love? “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). These words taken from the letter of John in the First Reading are but a mere echo of those of the Lord Jesus when he said: “no one has greater love than this, that one lays down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:3). Autobiographical words are these by Christ, whose love was the ultimate expression of generosity, done to the last drop of blood and to the ounce of life offered upon the Cross, in obedience to his Father’s will. Seeing this in Christ, we realize that this is what love is: the perfect obedience, the perfect identification to the will of the Father, who had sent him to the world not to condemn it, but rather to save it. This love of the Son of God was the opened the well-spring from which gushed the waters that gave us life. Only this kind of love can make us truly free, the only one powerful enough to transform us from being slaves of sin into friends of God, as the Lord has expressed it: “I call you friends…” (Jn. 15:15). When we allow this love to touch our life, it begins to transform our relationships, our marriage, our priesthood, friendships, our professional life, etc., making then into spaces where we exercise the true freedom of a child of God, a freedom which the secularist world constantly promises us, but is incapable of giving.
The message narrows down to this: we cannot say that we do love God and yet refuse to do what He wants of us, no being obedient to His will, expressed in the commandments. The love for God, our identity as Christians, bears its fruit in our moral life. In terms of morality, the Magisterium of the Church, its authority coming from Christ and sustained with the aid of the Holy Spirit, is our motherly teacher and sure guide.
Nowadays, the constant temptation for the Christian is to be politically correct, most especially in terms of morality and the issues surrounding it in our present society. Living the life of Christ in us makes us realize that we cannot afford to always be politically correct in our moral options. The mark of the Christian is not political correction, but rather obedience to the law of God. This comes to say that the commitment to Christ and the love for his Church should not leave us indifferent in terms of our moral choices, and in the face of the moral issues that are present in society. We cannot say we really love God, and yet at the same time support—even implicitly—the contraceptive mentality that is getting more prevalent in society. We cannot profess truthfully that we are united with what God wants, and yet agree to a definition of marriage other than it being solely between a man and a woman; one cannot say that he is committed to Christ, but is indifferent to the abuse of persons, to the corruption and injustice present in society. The indication that God’s love has finally come to dwell in our hearts is that in does not leave us indifferent. The love of God and for neighbor should lead us to live coherent lives, and fight against all of this evil in society.
The Word of God should lead us then to examine our hearts, and ask for the strength of the Holy Spirit in our lives, especially as we come closer to the great feast of Pentecost, so that, as the Opening Prayer of the Mass suggests, “we may express in our lives the love we celebrate”. AMEN, ALLELUIA!
FIRST READING: Acts 10:25-26; 34-35; 44-48.
SECOND READING: 1 Jn 4:7-10
GOSPEL: Jn 15: 9-17.