6th Sunday of Easter
Good Mother’s Day to all of you mothers and to all of you who have a mother. Today, I am in need of your help resolving a very minor marital dispute. My wife and I have differing opinions in regard to my specific responsibilities on Mother’s Day and I am looking for support.
My opinion is this… I have a mother and my responsibility for gift buying, card getting, and dinner buying pertains to her, my mother, and not to the mother of my 4 adult gainfully employed children. My wife’s opinion is slightly different. So, in deference to my very lovely, kind, and generous wife, who is also the mother of my 4 children, Happy Mother’s Day, sweetie.
Which kinda leads me to today’s Gospel.
The 15th verse of the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John reads, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’”, and how one reads that verse greatly impacts ones understanding of what Jesus is communicating to his disciples.
Let me explain with a brief grammar lesson.
Grammar tense is essential to effective communication. For those of us who have forgotten our 9th grade English lessons, tense is a form of the verb that expresses time. The tense of the verb tells us when an event or something existed or when a person did something. Past, present, and future are the three main types of tenses.
Mood in grammar is equally as important. Mood reflects the speaker’s view of the character of an event. The character of a specific event may be real or unreal, certain or possible, wished or demanded. There are five main grammatical moods in the English language. The indicative mood expresses a fact; “John ate a sandwich.” There is the interrogative mood which asks a question; “Did John eat a sandwich?” There is subjunctive mood which expresses a wish; “John please eat your sandwich.” The conditional mood is used when one thing is dependent upon the other; “John you wouldn’t be hungry if you had eaten your sandwich.” And finally, the imperative mood that reflects a command, “John eat your sandwich!”
Tense and mood both play a vital role in verse 15 of today’s Gospel, most especially in the 2nd half of this verse, “… you will keep my commandments.”
Now some of us may read this verse as a command… and others may read this as a fact. Is Jesus commanding us to keep his commandments in demonstration of our love or is he telling us the reality of what happens when we in fact love him? Our relationship with and our understanding of who Jesus is will heavily influence our answer to this question.
Lucky for us, the Greek Language, in which the New Testament was written, already provides the answer to this question. “… you will keep my commandments,” is a future fact.
In the 15th verse of John Chapter 14, Jesus is describing the outcome of loving him. Loving Jesus will produce obedience. Therefore, the question that Jesus presents to his disciples is not one of obedience, “will you obey me?” Rather, it is a question of love, “Do you love me?”
Which… brings us to love.
Jesus’s entire message is love. He himself is the entirety of God’s love revealed to humankind. The completeness of the Gospel is love.
Jesus established a new covenant between God and humanity and decreed the commandment of “Love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul… and love your neighbor as yourself.” A simple 3 step plan? Maybe. A lifelong journey in fatih? Definitely.
The Church defines love as, “to will the good of another.” This definition definitely lacks the romanticism of modern interpretations of love. However, when considered in regard to every single relationship in our life, especially our love of Jesus, this definition’s simplicity is quickly obscured by its immensity and completeness.
To will the good of another can be as subtle as letting a driver, who ignored the “right lane closed ahead” sign, cut the line in front of you. To will the good of another can be as powerful as forgiving a friend a grievous betrayal. To will the good of another can be as visible as mowing the lawn of the elderly neighbor next door, or cooking and delivering a meal to the family when one of their members is ill. To will the good of another can also be invisible when prayers are offered in the quiet of concerned and compassionate hearts.
Yet, we must ask the harder question, “Do we love Jesus?”. Do we will his good?
Do we consider his good when we avoid coming to Mass? Do we consider his good when willfully refuse to confess our sin? Do we consider his good when we withhold kindness and charity from those who are in need? Do we consider his good when we condemn those who look different, speak differently, pray differently, vote differently, or love differently than us?
Oftentimes we confuse love with contract. Whether it be with coworkers, friends, family, or a spouse we all expect something in return for our investment. When they fail to meet their end of the bargain, we no longer feel compelled to meet ours.
Not only do we consider our human relationships contractually, but we relate to God and the church in the exact same way. Jesus asks us to love him, instead we hear “obey me.” When we confuse his call to love with a call to obedience, we respond with… 1) an unholy self-righteousness or 2) outright rebellion. We go to church because we are “good Catholics”, or we don’t go to church because we can’t stand those “good Catholics.” Jesus didn’t call us to be good… he called us to love.
Now, please do not twist my words. Loving Jesus is not an excuse to live in disobedience. We cannot say, “we love Jesus; therefore, we are now free to sin.” Being in a loving relationship with Jesus produces in us a freedom to avoid sin. He tells his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Jesus is not calling us to enter into a contractual agreement with him. He is calling us to love him. To will his good as he wills the good for us… each and every single one of us.
As we come before him this day, here in front of this altar, our challenge, is that we do so not out of obedience but out of love. For his good as he wills good for us.