6th Sunday of Easter
Today’s liturgy deals with love of God and fellow humans. In the Gospel, the word “love” (in Greek “agape”) describes the mutual self-giving relationship between Jesus and God and between Jesus and his followers. The love that the Father bestowed on Christ has been spread all around and has reached us in full strength. God’s love comes down to us in his Son. The Son extends that love to us. We must bring it to others. We must pattern our love after Jesus’ example.
Our readings for today are filled with love-talk. We could rightly call this 6th Sunday of Easter Love Sunday. At first glance, the theme of our readings would seem to strike a very responsive chord in the modern heart. Love and loving are in. But there is a real difference between the love lived and extolled by Jesus and those brands of love bantered about on television and in magazines. Hence, it is very important that the nature of Christian love be clear to us. For if Jesus tells us that it is by love that our discipleship is known, then we need to make sure we know what love is.
Christian love is not found in a collection of words but in the life lived by Jesus Christ. This Sunday’s Gospel continues last Sunday’s reflection on the vine and the branches. Jesus had taught his disciples that they must remain in him, as a branch in the vine, if they are going to bear fruit. The all important condition for that effect is that my words remain in you. Besides faithful adherence to Jesus’ word, active faith in Jesus requires adherence to him through love. This loving relationship of the disciple to the Lord is necessary for a really fruitful work. This is why Jesus requests his branches: remain in my love (in today’s Gospel), just as before he requested them (last Sunday’s Gospel) to remain in me, in my word, in my teaching.
We are urged to live or remain or dwell (the same word in Greek) in Jesus’ love by keeping his commandments. When he summed up the Law, he did so in terms of a twofold commandment of love for God and neighbor. Jesus lived that way and wanted his disciples to do the same: You will live in my love if you keep my commandments, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and live in his love.
God is love. He loves men in Jesus Christ. Men love God in Jesus Christ. Men must love one another in Jesus Christ. In Christ, man participates in the life of God. Having become a sharer in God, man normally must manifest what characterizes God, and that is love. We are asked to love God and our brethren, but at the same time we are given the ability to fulfill this request. Becoming children of God through Christ, we must love the Father as the Son loves him, and we must love others as Christ loves them. The love of which Jesus speaks is one, but many. It begins with the Father’s love for Christ, moves on to Jesus’ love for his friends, is reciprocated in the disciples’ loving obedience to Christ, and radiates out through their love for one another.
God’s love comes down to us in his Son. The Son extends that love to us. We must bring it to others. The Father’s love, the Son’s love, our love are not all different loves. They are all one, the Father’s. This is the meaning of the as and the so in: As the Father has love me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love. The Son loves us with the same love the Father expressed to him. We are to live on in Christ’s love, to love one another as he has loved us, to obey Christ as he obeyed the Father, and to lay down our lives for one another as he laid down his life for us. In all of these ways we are to go forth and bear fruit. God’s love has come to us in Jesus Christ. We must make it so contagious that what has come down from heaven will spread through the world.
On our own, would any of us come up with the notion of a God who loves and yearns to be loved? Love has rarely been he way humanity has described what happens between human beings and their God. Not once, for example, does the Koran apply the word love to God. And Aristotle stated bluntly, “It would be eccentric for anyone to claim that he loved Zeus.” But in dazzling contrast, the Christian Bible affirms: “God is love,” and cites love as the main reason Jesus came to earth.