SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2020
THE 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER
IF YOU LOVE ME YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS
I believe there are a great many similarities between the guidance that Jesus gave his disciples and the rules that we are now living through with the COVID 19 virus. Their purpose is the same. That we would live safely, happily and healthily. That we would cooperate with each other to ensure that all people are given the same chance to live life in the best way possible. That we would take care of those who need a hand and accept the help of those so ready to assist.
Things which are seen as restrictions are really just sensible practices at a time when factors beyond our control are impacting our lives. Jesus was wanting His followers to be able to make the best of their lives when times were difficult, not by restricting them, but by providing them with strategies for living the best lives they could manage. It really depends if we see restrictions and disciplines as a form of punishment or as a lesson for life, as impeding our happiness or as a means to contentment.
In today's Gospel passage we hear part of the farewell discourse of Jesus during the last supper. He is about the leave them and wants to give them what seems like some last-minute instructions so that they will be prepared for what is to come next and how they will cope without His physical presence. In these last hours with the disciples, He spoke about the essentials. Many of the things He said were naturally directed towards the future, at how He wanted them to live when He was gone. One of the things He said to them was "If you love me, keep my commandments".
These days we don't feel comfortable using the word 'commandment". We are people who want to exercise free will and don't really want to obey anyone. What Jesus is referring to is following His way of life, rather than a specific set of rules. What is involved here is 'Christian Discipleship' that is, making the effort to listen to His words and live by them. To see the wisdom of His words and the sensible reality of doing what He did.
But let's be clear about one thing. We don't keep God's commandments so that He will love us, we keep His commandments because He loves us. This was His primary instruction to the Apostles, that they should love one another as He had loved them, and that love was to be unconditional.
They were to replicate His love so that they could navigate their way through what was to be a somewhat treacherous journey ahead. What initially sounded like a demanding obligation would become their greatest support. It would benefit not only them, but the recipient of that love.
The greatest need each of us has is for real, unconditional love, yet we find it hard to believe that that is how God could love us. We think that it comes with conditions and a cost. We tend to believe that God only loves us when we are good. God loves us not because we are good, but because He is good.
Our very existence is a sign of God's love. Our response is to try to return that love, not to God directly, but to the image of God as found in those around us. That's when it gets difficult – to love those we can see, as opposed to God whom we cannot see. It is particularly difficult when others do not return that love immediately. Jesus showed His love for the Father through His obedience even when it cost Him His life. Similarly, we are then asked to show our love for Jesus by following Him in obedience to His law of love. To love God is to obey and to obey God is to love.
The issue with obedience is that it implies that there are rules to be followed, and if we don't understand the reason behind the rules then we find it difficult to follow them. Perhaps if we saw that Jesus was offering guidelines to make the journey more fulfilling, rather than worrying about some sort of punishment for breaking the regulations, we might better understand His approach. His guidelines are spread throughout the Gospels and the themes are often repeated or reinforced through His teaching and the parables.
Themes like, loving your enemies and forgiving those who sin against you. Giving generously and letting your light shine before people to help them find their way to God. Equally, He suggested that we should not return evil for evil and do not judge our neighbour.
His constant reference to not worrying about food or drink or clothes, but rather storing up our treasure in heaven. Perhaps most appropriate for these days of isolation, that we should not give up when times are tough, but to keep on trusting in Jesus and the promises of God the Father. Now these don't sound like rules to be followed, but rather wise counsel for navigating the hurdles and pitfalls of life.
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me the grace to love you and to keep your commandments and may your Holy Spirit be my helper. Amen.