“Jesus said unto his disciples, if ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever… ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…”
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love, the very bond of Love; moreover his is the voice of Jesus who, “for a little while,” is absent from us. Though we long to be with Jesus, to see him face to face, to know the brush of his hand as he wipes our tears away, we are yet full of the joy of the Holy Spirit. And it is important to realize that his absence is not permanent, nor is it a total absence: he is very much present for us in the Blessed Sacrament – what we miss, ironically, since we have never actually experienced it, is our Lord’s incarnate presence standing among us.
And yet we are full of the joy of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because, having proceeded from the Father and having been sent by the Son, the Holy Spirit is here today. Jesus sent him to us. The Holy Spirit is evidence of Jesus’ love especially in his bodily absence; and the Spirit’s presence and work in the Church is a consolation, a comfort, a solace, and a support in our life together. As uplifting and gladdening as the consolation of the Holy Spirit is, Paul says this is only an earnest of things to come:
“In… whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…”
You all know what an “earnest” is? If you buy a house you may be asked to put down “earnest money.” That is an amount, much lower than a down payment, which shows you are acting in “earnest,” acting in good faith. As happy as we may be in the Holy Spirit of Christ today, this happiness, this consolation is only an “earnest,” compared to the joy our Redeemer has purchased for us. We will get back to the Holy Spirit as the bond of Love “in a little while,” but right now, I want to concentrate mainly on the first sentence of the Gospel and open it up.
“Jesus said unto his disciples, If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
But what is love? What are his commandments? To begin with we can say that these two, love and commandments, are so entwined, for Jesus, that they are inseparable, indivisible. In a sense you cannot tell them apart. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” We might say, “he who has loved with the love of Jesus has kept Jesus’ commandments; and he who has kept his commandments has loved with the love of Jesus.” To love Jesus is to obey Jesus and to obey Jesus is to love Jesus. There is no way to separate the two. Love is to be so identified with keeping his commandants as to be one whole seamless garment with which the Christian is covered at baptism. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” St. Paul declared. Put on Christ, as a seamless garment of love is another way of saying “Obey Christ’s commandments.” Why? Because the commandments of Christ enflesh the love of Christ. Love is Christian behavior. Love is not merely the passions of the heart. You may have passionate emotions for Jesus, it may thrill you to hear his name, you may shed tears over his suffering, but that is not love. The love that Jesus is drawing out of you is the same love that he infused in you at baptism. Love is Christian behavior – behavior that more frequently struggles against various passions. It is the same love Jesus has for his Father. Look at the last verse in the Gospel:
“I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.”
Jesus bring together his Commandments and Love in John 15:12:
“This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. No man can have greater love than this: to lay down his life for those he loves. And you are the ones I love when you do what I command you.”
When Jesus says, “And you are the ones I love…” he is using the word “philoi,” which is from the word “philos” which means, “to love.”
“You are my “philoi.” “You are the ones I love.” This is exactly what Jesus said to his disciples, and the meaning of that whole sentence is “You are the ones I love and you will remain in my love because you are safe and secure in me.” You are the ones he loves. And his “philoi” is no esoteric group within the Christian community. Jesus’ death, which is his grand act of love, brought forth the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit begets children to God. The “philoi,” the beloved of Jesus, are all Christians.
“And you are the ones I love when you do what I command you.”
“When you do what I command you,” – I will love you. If you don’t, I will not love you.” No! That is not what Jesus is saying. That would lead us to think that the better I behaved, the more he loves me. But that would be to mistake the end for a means. “When you do what I command you” is not a means to an end. No. Obeying Jesus’ commandments does not make one a beloved disciple. Nor is such obedience a test of whether or not one is loved by Jesus. After all, the very Apostles that he would have been speaking to in present time in this passage were hardly to live up to his commandments. Not every one of them was a Judas; but they hardly kept his commandments. And yet he came to them after his resurrection. No it is not that Jesus loves us because we are good; it is rather, obedience to Jesus’ commandments naturally flows from being loved by Jesus. “When you do what I command” is not simply keeping set of moral precepts as an end in itself; it is rather the whole way of a Christian’s life in loving union with Jesus Christ and his Church.
But for a few minutes, I want to isolate Jesus’ new commandment:
“This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. No man can have greater love than this: to lay down his life for those he loves.”
There is a procession of Love: The Father loves Jesus – Jesus loves us, his disciples – and we love one another.
The Father loves Jesus – Jesus loves us, his disciples – and we are to love one another. This is a matter of behavior. Love of this sort is not about feelings. The Greeks said feelings are like the weather; one day it is stormy and the next day it is bright and shinny. You have no control over the weather and you have no control over what you feel. One day you wake up feeling stormy and another day you wake up feeling all sunny. You cannot control how you feel, but you do have control over your behavior. Yes you do. You are not at the mercy of your feelings. You cannot will away an electrical storm, but you don’t have to go fly a kite in the middle of it. Love as Christian behavior liberates you from what may be the tyranny of feelings.
So here we are:
Here’s the commandment:
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
And here’s the Love:
“No man can have greater love than this: to lay down his life for those he loves.”
Now, let me ask you this: Do you love the person beside of you that much? What about the person in front of you? Would you die for them? Now I happened to believe you do, because I think most of you do love one another such that if push came to shove you would lay down your life for your fellow Christian. I believe most of you would do that.
But here’s another proposition:
If we love one another, such that we are willing to die for one another, how ought we to live with one another before that happens?
How does the fact that you will follow Jesus to the death for one another inform the way you live with one another right now? How do we live with each other before we have to die for each other?
I have pointed out before that St. Paul gives us some direction. There are attitudes and behaviors that militate against love: “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery…” How are we all doing so far? Any sorcery going on? No immorality? No idolatry? Good!
St Paul goes on to say that we have to stay away from: “enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, a political spirit, envy and drunkenness…” Now how are we doing?
And here is what Love looks like: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another…” That is the second mention of envy and if you look at other lists in the New Testament given by other Apostles you will see that envy makes all the lists. Why? Envy is destructive to any community because envy is pure self-regard.
Now one last point in closing:
“he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth… ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…”
Last week I pointed out that Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit may be viewed a three concentric circles. The Father is the center, the next circle represents Jesus and the outward circle represents the disciples. Where is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the very bond of love between the Father and the Son and the Church. The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to himself. He, the Spirit of Love, has bound us to the Father, he has bound us to Christ and he has bound us to one another in Love.