May 24, 2014

6th Easter Sunday: "What's love got to do with it?"

"He will give you another Advocate to be with you always . . ."
(click on link above)
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Pt 3: 15-18
Jn 14: 15-21

We don’t often, if ever, define the obedience of law as an act of love.  Why do we obey the speed limit? (at least as best possible)  - Because we fear getting a ticket and a higher insurance premium.  Obviously, we should likewise have the safety of others and ourselves as a motivation but at first blush, we fear being stopped by the police. Recall the last time you looked in your rear view mirror and noticed a police car behind you with its lights flashing – how did you feel?  

Why do we pay our taxes as the law demands?  Because if we don’t we end up in jail. Why do we follow any laws? The highest motivation is for the common good of all, for order in society, and for the safety of all citizens. 

While all of these are worthy reasons, even though some may be fear based, I don’t think we often imagine that by doing so we are acting in love.  “Sorry Officer, I should have loved more” would sound a bit strange to say the least.

Yet, in our Gospel this Sunday, the last before our two great Feasts of the Lord’s Ascension and Pentecost, we hear Jesus say: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments . . . whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” It sounds that obedience to the laws, or commandments, of Christ is a call to love, not a fear of reprisal.  How are these “commandments” of Jesus different from our moral duty to obey civil law?

While we don’t describe our legal system as the rule of commandments, rather the “rule of law,” we may sometimes speak of the “law of the Church” or the Ten Commandments as the “Law of Mt. Sinai” or the “Law given to Moses.” But Jesus implies a particular kind of law that he has given to his disciples and to all who would come to believe in him – the “law” of love.

What’s in it for us – this law of love that Jesus speaks of?  Jesus tells us: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth . . . and whoever loves me” (obeys my commandments) “will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”  We are invited into a profound love bond that Jesus has between himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit that he desires we all be a part of. Do we need any more reason than that? And what is true love other than a very particular relationship between the lover and the beloved.

Perhaps a good comparison would be that found in the sacred bond of Matrimony. The Church, after the mind of Jesus, raises high ideals in its description of this Sacrament. Man and woman freely enter a holy bond in which they pledge their loyalty, respect, and mutual love, out of which is the potential for new life.

We speak of the wedding Vows with great seriousness which reminds the couple that they should never be taken lightly.  Throughout the course of their married life, time and time again, by their words and actions, in faithfulness to what they first promised, they show their love for each other and for children born of that union. To obey their wedding vows is to show love for their spouse. A love not motivated by fear but by loyalty, mutual respect and rooted in their love for God. 

While all unions experience tension and difficulty, love is expressed by consistent loyalty and faithfulness. The byproduct of this loyalty is joy and peace.

This may be one way to understand Jesus’ own desire that we obey his commandments – to love God and our neighbor as ourselves – as loyal, faithful, and respectful disciples.  It’s all about a relationship (s) that we are called into; that with God as Trinity and by association with all who do likewise and even those who don’t. This bond creates a unity, a communion, between believers that is rooted in charity.

In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles we hear a vibrant account of God’s grace poured out in Samaria, beyond Jerusalem, through the preaching of the Apostle Philip.  Healing takes place, unclean spirits are released and there was great joy as these new Christians “receive the Holy Spirit.” We can only imagine what the result of all this was for the sake of the new Way.  Great love from God poured out upon all.  

So, “what’s love got to do with it?” Maybe the words of consecration spoken by the priest at Mass as the wine is consecrated says it all: “. . . the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” May we be faithful and loyal Christians, expressed in our love for one another as Christ’s love was “poured out” for all.

Almighty ever-living God,
who restore us to eternal life in the Resurrection of Christ,
increase in us, we pray, the fruits of this paschal Sacrament
and pour into our hearts the strength of this saving food.
Through Christ our Lord.

(Prayer after Communion)