MAY 19, 2003, 5TH WEEK OF EASTER, HOMILY: JOHN 14:21-26
HE WHO HAS MY COMMANDMENTS AND KEEPS THEM IS THE ONE WHO LOVES ME. HE WHO LOVES ME WILL BE LOVED BY THE FATHER. People whose ways of thinking are formed in modern times are not accustomed to think of obedience as the primary indication of love. Most persons associate love with sentiment, strong and deep attachment of the feelings to another. Whether it is a member of the family or a dear friend or a person of the opposite sex to whom one is attracted, we are inclined to conceive of love as affection. This is well and good; it is according to nature. But it is only a part of love, and being dependent upon feeling and subject to moods, it easily changes and even disappears, as we can observe every day in human relations.
Jesus certainly knew such human love as St. John makes evident elsewhere in his Gospel. But he was never dominated by it. He does not exclude it; he rather presupposes it. But what he regularly speaks of when he refers to the love he came to teach and to reveal is obedience. This is notably the case when he speaks of his relation to his heavenly Father. Shortly after todays passage John tells us that Jesus spoke of his passion and death as an act of love expressed by obedience to his Father: But that the wold might know that I love the Father and that I do as the Father commands, Rise up and let us go from here to meet suffering and death. (John 14:31).
Gradually we learn the wisdom in this conception of love. After all our decisions are more deeply expressive of our person than our feelings. To obey another is to recognize his worth for one thing. It is a choice that may be made counter to our mood or feelings. When it is made in harmony with our more deeply rooted sentiments thus engaging our feelings as well as our will, it is all the more a complete expression of who we choose to be in relation to the person we obey. Further, by obeying we soon discover that we awaken a sense of respect that in time comes to include a genuine affection as well. In short, by obeying we not only show love, we stimulate it in the other.
Our Lord tells us here that if we really love him we will show it by putting into practice his teaching. His response to obedience will be the highest expression of love. For then, he says My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him now and for all eternity.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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