Sixth Sunday of Easter
Today’s Gospel sets us up for the next two Sundays - of Ascension and Pentecost – Jesus’ departure for heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There are two ways of exercising authority and instilling obedience in others:
(i) Because I say so
As an attitude of authority it might at times be necessary for a wayward defiant child or pupil – although not the most convincing argument, and it is one that can cause resentment, but at times is a necessary corrective for those who insist on punishment and will not listen to reason.
It is childish, one is obedient merely because one is fearful of the consequences, it is an autocratic, dictatorial attitude on the part of authority, a ‘do-it-or-else’ approach that is legalistic, cold, hard, rigid, and requiring servility. Often this kind of relationship is evident in the Old Testament because the people of Israel are stubborn and fickle.
(ii) Because I call you friends, out of love for me: If you love me , keep my commandments
This commands obedient, loving service, mutual love, one that is respectful of the other, one that is motivated out of love for the other, and mature. This is the attitude of Jesus: Jesus is persuasive you could say because He loved us first
LOVE first – even though it is true to say that we can hurt the ones we love, and there is greater risk of hurt and betrayal by opening ourselves to another in love, yet there is the hope that we are less likely to deliberately cause pain to or be pained by the one we love. We can be thoughtless and insensitive, but practiced forgiveness is always at the ready. This is our experience of the love of Jesus made possible by the Spirit.
What would you and I do out of a true love for one another? Love is hard to explain –it is more than a feeling, love does not use the other.
Because of the love of Jesus, following His commandments are easier and make more sense.
The 10 commandments can be put more positively then as follows: Love of God, His name, His day – and by extension out of love, gratitude, love for other’s rightful authority, other’s spouse, property, respect for life, purity, truth, and true love of self.
Love has its own logic – you respect the other. The favourite saying of Jesus in the writings of John the beloved disciple – ‘love one another’. For Simon Peter it was a summons to love ‘Simon, do you love me? Feed my sheep.’ St Augustine said: ‘Love God and do what you will’. This is loving service, a love proved in deeds, evidence as well as attitude.
Because the Spirit is within us, we are given an inner force, a new heart and a new vision, like a heart transplant – a stronger beating heart that pumps life like nothing before, we are given new strength to love, to forgive and to serve.
Followers of Christ therefore are enabled through a life of grace – life in the Holy Spirit – to love and to overcome self-love and selfishness and a sense of ‘what’s in it for me?’ mentality or outlook on life.
Jesus departs, the Holy Spirit comes, and love and service must be evident in His disciples in order to convince others of the existence of God.
Practically speaking, for each of us this relationship of love with God and with one another must be:
• Renewed through Confession
• Nourished by the Eucharist
• Expanded through prayer and
• Exercised through works of service
Jesus said ‘love one another’ and He meant it!