Easter 6 May 21, 2017
Acts 8, 5-8, 14-17 + Psalm 66 + 1 Peter 3, 15-18 + John 14, 15-21
Aboard the MS Maasdam
There is something tender and deeply personal within the verses of today’s Gospel. We know it is the Last Supper, and while the disciples are in denial Jesus is not. They are about to part. Something is happening that cannot be stopped now, and it will change everything. Jesus has spoken to them again and again about being the Way, about the Light, the Bread, the Truth. These are all descriptions of himself and what he wants to offer them. He has asked them to believe him, to trust him, and to follow him. Now he asks something much greater. It is the only time in all of the Gospel narratives that Jesus speaks this way and asks this of his disciples. It will happen one more time, but that will be after the resurrection. Today he asks them to love him. This is now a conversation of the heart.
This conversation is about something far greater than friendship, the love of husband and wife or the love of a parent and a child. Jesus is talking about love in the way that the Father and the Son love one another. Theirs is a relationship that comes from a mutual devotion. It comes from their unity. In the relationship Jesus has with the Father obedience has nothing to do with rules. It is about sharing the same desires because there is no difference between them. They both long for, desire, and will the same thing.
After inviting us follow him, Jesus asks us to love him which is a great deal more than believe in him. He is not asking us to obey rules, he is asking us to share his heart. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” is a request for love, not obedience. We do not keep his commandments so that he will love us; we keep his commandments because he loves us and love makes it easy.
There is a wonderful song by Andrew Lloyd Weber that kept going through my mind as I was reflecting on these verses. It’s called: “Love Changes Everything.” You may know it, and I may have started it going through your minds as it did mine for hours the other day. “Nothing in the world will ever be the same” are the words that conclude each stanza of the song, and that is exactly what John’s Gospel suggests for us as he describes that night around the table and sums up for us the one thing Jesus came among us to accomplish: simply to entice humanity into falling in love with God.
If we were to put more simply the opening verses of this Gospel, it would read: “If you love me you will love what I love and want what I want.” This is the mystical union between the Father and the Son into which we are invited today. This is the kind of love Jesus asks of us, that we want what the Father wants, and this makes keeping the commandments a matter of the heart, a heart willingly invaded by God.