The Gospel today is from John’s Gospel, chapter 15 and is a continuation of Jesus’ Farewell discourse during the Last Supper. Last week, Jesus used the imagery of the vine and its branches to describe our relationship with Him and each other as members of the Body of Christ. We learned that our union with Jesus will lead to fruitful service. Today’s reading builds on this teaching and describes just what kind of service that we as Christians are called upon to offer to others.
Previously in the discourse (chapter 14) we hear Jesus affirm that he is known by the Father and that his disciples will know the Father by knowing Jesus. Today Jesus is reminding his disciples that this knowledge is to be expressed in love. Those who know Jesus well, will follow his example and love one another. Knowledge leads to love, which leads to action. John reminds his community that Jesus taught that love is the sign of true discipleship and therefore a sign of a true Christian but it is a particular kind of love. It is love which involves sacrifice, obedience and willing co-operation which lead to joy.
The writer C. S. Lewis in a book called “The Four Loves” talks about four different types of love which are found in the Bible. “Affection” (storge), which is the affection we have for the people around us in our daily lives. The second is, “friendship” (Philia) based on relationship and the things we have in common. “Romantic” (eros), love based on passion and of ‘falling in love’ with someone. The fourth is “charity” (agape), this is the unconditional love of the Father given to us through his Son (Jesus). Lewis thinks this should be our chief aim as Christians, to love unconditionally. This unconditional love is what Jesus teaches in today’s Gospel. Jesus says, “love one another, as I have loved you,” what does he mean exactly?
We might easily misinterpret what Jesus means by these words. Jesus does not say that his love depends on our obedience because then it would be conditional love. The obedience which Jesus talks about is our surrender of will, that can only happen when we truly accept God’s love and believe that God wants the best for us and those around us. Such surrender brings us joy and freedom to follow Jesus’ teachings and live our lives in a loving way. Jesus’ actions and teachings were rooted in God’s love and based on relationship. Today Jesus asks us to “remain in my love”, it’s an invitation. Are we willing as parents to listen to this invitation? Sometimes it is hard to find time in our busy schedules to stop and spend a few moments with God, but for our relationship with God to grow we need to find a few moments to pray. Jesus teaches us that our relationship with Him is based on friendship. Just like Jesus chose the disciples and sent them out into the world for the service of others, we too are chosen and invited to be a servant of God. As Christians we are called to bear fruit by serving others and by sacrificing for others, out of love.