Sunday, 17 May 2009

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. (Joh 15:9)

This Sunday's gospel is the continuation of the narrative of the 15th chapter of the Gospel of St. John (Jn 15:9-17). These passages are becoming very familiar to us now, or at least for daily mass goers, as this year we have been reading the same passage in the last few days in the weekly cycle.

I will try and take a small bit a different approach to continuation of the theme this week: "Abide in me, and I in you" (Joh 15:4 RSV). Last week I tried to talk about the importance of having Jesus "abide" in our lives, and gave a reflection on God's ocean of love on Good Shepherd Sunday, this week I will look if there are any clues on how to do this... The whole topic of love, the realization that "God is love" (1Jo 4:8 RSV), has maybe the risk that it overdoses us, in a certain sense, and that it becomes superficial, that it becomes unreal. Instead of leading us deeper in a relation with God it becomes maybe even almost laughable, an unattainable ideal... but it is not!

A reltation does not some that grown quickly, and we need to give it time, and also, we should start at the beginning. Even when trying to advance in our relation with God for a long time, there is no harm to go back to the beginning, to start over again and rediscover the freshness: the Word is always fresh, always new!

So we have to start simple, and we will see what Jesus tells us to do in the gospel of today: "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love" (Joh 15:10 RSV). This is a start, something concrete we can do. Jesus specifically says "you are my friends if you do what I command you" (Joh 15:14 RSV).

But is this easy... in first sight it might be, but maybe it is not. We can look at what Jesus says in the gospel, we can look at the ten commandments, and try to interpret it and live accordingly. However, I like to put out the idea that is maybe only part, our own view of the teachings, but that in following Jesus the consequence is to have to follow the Church as well... "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mat 16:19 RSV).

So why suddenly throw that in?
"You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mat 5:48 RSV). We are called to be saints, we are called to perfection, and God does not call us to something that is not attainable for us. God is the Truth, only in God is found the fullness of the Truth. To live a life as close to God as possible we need to follow Jesus, who is the ultimate example (being God and all).
However, we cannot just interpretations ourselves what Jesus meant in His teaching, what he is calling us to do. This will end up in all kinds of different opinions, and will make Truth subjective, which it is not. Therefore, Jesus instituted the Church to guide us (quote above) on our way to the kingdom. The Church has the authority to interpret Divine Revelation, it has the duty to safeguard the teaching of Jesus so that it is understood in the right way and not just according to ones own preference.

Sometimes Jesus His commandments maybe difficult, maybe the Church teachings annoying, but we have an obligation to inquire and understand why the teachings are what they are (and please leave a comment below if you would like an explanation of some). Rules and regulations can be annoying, but they are not the end, they are only a help and that is important to realize. An understanding of the teachings are the way to the fullness of joy: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (Joh 15:11 RSV) The teachings help us to attain the fullness of life, even though in the beginning it might be hard. To learn to play the piano it takes hard and disciplined practice before one can really start to enjoy it while playing Beethoven!

So where does this lead us?
It leads us into a closer relation to God, to the point where Jesus makes his next request: "this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (Joh 15:12 RSV) It leads us to love... by growing in virtue we become closer and closer to God, to the point of the challenge to love as God loves... "he who loves is born of God and knows God" (1Jo 4:7 RSV)

Did I manage to give some kind of an idea on how to start to deepen our relation with Jesus? Maybe not, but I am convinced that the start of a virtues life is to start by having a good look on how we live, and see why the Church teaching might indicate that we should make some changes. I will try again next week to talk about the deepening of our relation with Jesus...

(If anybody who reads this reflection has questions, request or suggestion regarding these writings, please leave a comment or email me using the form on the right... and please sue the star rating below)

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