Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48/ Psalm 98/1John 4:7-10/ John 15:9-17
Theme: True Love Perfects Our Joy
The New Law is a law of love (Gospel) that is valid for everyone. It is universal and requires universal love, for theological love, by nature, cannot exclude anyone. This is made manifest in the opening of the doors of the Church to non Jews (First Reading), in which Peter discovers that “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Responsorial Psalm). Knowledge of God through faith leads to an all-giving love for God (Second Reading), and here we see that the fulfillment of the New Law is tantamount to a life of the Theological Virtues.
Today’s gospel gives us two models of personal relationship to Jesus: as a servant (in Greek doulos means “slave”) or as a friend. At any given point in our faith journey one of these two models is dominant. Either we see our relationship to Christ mainly in terms of master-servant or in terms of friend-friend. With the exception of mystics, traditional lay spirituality in the church has usually followed the master-servant model. Jesus is seen more as a master to be feared, respected and obeyed than as a friend to love in intimacy and familiarity. The gospel reading, therefore, challenges us to rethink our relationship with Christ because, evidently, Christ himself prefers to relate with his disciples as friends rather than a master to servant relationship. Jesus says: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Jesus says that he would no longer call his disciples servants.
This seems to indicate that he called them servants until then. Our relationship with Christ goes through different stages. First it starts off as a master-servant relationship when we are new to the faith, but then as our relationship with Christ deepens it changes into a less formal friend-friend type of relationship. Why, then, do so many of us stick to the master-servant way of relating to Christ as if it were the only way? Today’s gospel is a call for us to move beyond the infant stage, the servant-master relationship, and go over to the adult stage, the friend-friend way of relating to Christ. This will change the way we pray and the way we live. We shall begin to pray better (John 15:7) and to experience more peace and joy in our lives, as people do who are in love.
One objection that is often raised by those who promote the master-servant model of relating to Christ is the concern that we are unworthy. Sure enough, we are not worthy. But Jesus has already taken that into consideration. He reminds us that “You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16). If he has decided to choose us in our unworthiness and to love and accept us as we are, then we should not fix our gaze on ourselves and ask, “Who am I, Lord, that you should love me?” Rather we should fix our gaze on him and ask, “Who are you, Lord, that you love me so?” How can we tell the difference between the irreverence and disrespect shown by those who have no serious relationship with the Lord and true familiarity which grows out of a loving relationship with Him? The key is keeping the Lord’s commandments. Yes, God loves and accepts us as we are, but God loves us too much to leave us as we are.
We love babies as they are, yet we want them to grow up. God expects us, similarly, to grow in His love. The friendship and intimacy the Lord offers to us should not be an excuse for callousness and indifference. Just as God showed His love for us, indeed, by sending his Son to die for us, so is true love for God always shown, indeed, by the way we keep the twin commandments of love of God and neighbour. By this we can know if we are truly Christ’s friends, because, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15: 14) he says.
“God is love.” Such an affirmation is simple and absolute. Nonetheless, to enter into this mystery and truly understand it requires more than intellectual knowledge. To know that God is love requires our participation in his divine love. Authentic knowledge of God is only born in a simple heart that is open and attentive to him. Ultimately, this knowledge of God, of divine Love, is a personal experience. “Man”, says John Paul II, “is constantly tempted to distance himself from the source of love” (Veritatis Splendor). The harmony is broken, and man still searches for peace, life, and a solution to this tragedy.
The solution is indeed, a personal relationship with Jesus. Out of love Christ offers himself to the Father as an innocent, expiatory victim for the sins of the world: “Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies the punishments that bring us peace, and through his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Upon giving his life, he not only re-opens the gates of heaven, but he gives us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). This new commandment is a compendium of the New Law, which, like goodness itself, is given to creatures. And it is in living this new commandment that man rediscovers his happiness and peace, his very life. “Jesus asks us to follow him and to imitate him along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren … to the end.”
Nonetheless, “Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being…. To imitate and live out the love of Christ is not possible for man by his own strength alone. He becomes capable of this love only by virtue of a gift received. As the Lord Jesus receives the love of his Father, so he in turn freely communicates that love to his disciples” (Veritatis Splendor 20-22).
In conclusion, I celebrate all mothers today in particular because I feel that mothers are the strongest personification of love and that we learn from them as our first teachers on how to love. The life of our mothers represents what I call a “beautiful devastation.” Mothers are not scared to start all over again. Their ability to adapt to new situations; their resilience in the midst of traumatic upheavals make them the stronger sex. May we love each other as our mothers love us, and may the joy that Christ offers fill your hearts and stay with you each and every hour of the day, comforting you when inevitable suffering or pain passes by. And this is the Good News we need to share with each other every day!