6th Sunday of Easter
In today's Gospel, during the last supper, Jesus tells His apostles how He wanted them to live after He was gone.
One of the things He said to them was: 'If you love me, keep my commandments'.
What did Jesus mean when He said “If you love me, keep my commandments”?
When He said this Jesus was not talking about keeping a specific set of commandments but rather about following a specific way of life.
Remember in last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus told Thomas “I am the way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father, except through me”.
Do we believe those words? Do we believe that there is only one way to go to the Father?
It’s true. There is only one way. If we want to get to Heaven Jesus shows us the way. We need to follow His way. We need to follow the Truth. Following Jesus will lead us to Eternal Life with the Father.
We can't truly call ourselves disciples of Jesus…. we can’t really call ourselves Christian if we don’t listen to His words and make a sincere effort to follow them.
We wouldn't be much of a Christian if we didn't try to live as Jesus taught us to live.
But if we are to live as Jesus taught us to live, we must be clear about one thing.
We don't keep His commandments so that He will love us, rather, we keep His commandments because He loves us.
During that same supper Jesus said, 'Love one another as I have loved you.'
It was He who first loved the apostles, and He loved them unconditionally.
Isn’t it true that the greatest need each one of us has is for love, to love and to be loved? Real, unconditional love.
Sometimes we find it very hard to believe but that is exactly how God loves us. With real unconditional love.
Perhaps it’s a holdover from our childhood but isn’t it true that often we have a tendency to believe that God will love us only if we are good, and therefore we should be good if we want God to love us?
Many of us when we were children, particularly at Christmas, were enticed to be good for goodness sakes so that Santa could bring us presents. And we were told that if we weren’t good, we would not get presents.
Has this type of thinking carried over to how we think of God? Do we still think that way?
The Truth is that God loves us, not because we are good, but rather God loves us because God is good.
We exist because of God’s love. God's unconditional love for us is the Good News.
Our response should be to try to return that love not out of fear but out of obedience to God’s will for our lives.
And we do that by listening to His command to love one another.
Jesus knew that the Father loved Him. He responded by loving the Father.
How did Jesus show that He loved the Father?
He showed His love for the Father through His obedience, even unto death – death on the cross.
And it is through this same obedience that we are to show our love for Jesus.
What does this mean for us in practice?
It means listening to His word and putting that word into action.
To love is to obey. And to obey is to love.
But sometimes our pride gets in the way. Too often it seems we know a better way.
Sometimes, with the help of Satan, it seems we know a better truth.
That’s often when we look for a better life in this world than the one that is offered to us by God.
Sometimes we do this by proclaiming our love for God with our words and asking God to intervene and give us the life that more correctly follows our vision of how it should be.
All to no avail and so then in our pride, we deny God with our actions or by trying to force our own vision of what we believe our life should be.
This is not love of God but rather love of self.
Real love of God is shown by doing the right thing. You see, others know us by our actions, not so much by what we say with our lips but rather how we respond in obedience to God’s words.
It is true that it is not easy to live as a disciple of Jesus in this modern world.
Very often to be a Christian means we have to swim against the current, we have to go against the popular opinion.
Too often we are concerned about what others will think rather than if what we are doing is the correct thing to do.
Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and stop trying to make it our own way, with our own truth and our own way of life.
It is as though God has made a mistake with our lives and now we are going to help God correct it - come Hell or high water.
At other times it seems to us that the cross God has given us seems too heavy to carry. We begin to think that this cannot be God’s will for my life.
We forget that to follow Jesus quite often means we are called to go against the easy way.
It is not an easy thing for us to go against our pride and submit ourselves to God’s will for our lives.
Perhaps I am trying to carry the cross by myself? It never was an easy thing to follow Jesus.
But it is precisely for that reason that Jesus has given us an Advocate.
The word Jesus used for the Holy Spirit is the word 'Advocate'.
Advocate is a legal term for one who defends someone at a trial.
The Holy Spirit was the great defender of the disciples in the times of trial which they faced.
When we are weak and especially in times when we are battling our pride we must pray to this same Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit comforts us in times of sorrow, enlightens us in times of darkness, and like He did for the apostles, this same Holy Spirit will enable us to be brave and strong in times of weakness.
The Holy Spirit will help us to humbly accept and follow with courage the path that God has chosen for us in this life.
All followers of Jesus can expect to suffer. But, as St Peter says (Second Reading), it is far better to suffer for doing the right thing than to suffer for doing the wrong thing.
Isn’t it true that quite often, in our pride, we suffer in this life for the wrong thing.
But, we have the example of Christ who, even though He was innocent, humbly and obediently, suffered and died for our sins.
He calls us to join in His suffering and thereby giving our sufferings true merit.
“If you wish to be my disciples, daily take up your cross and come follow me.”
The apostles knew that Jesus loved them. And we know that Jesus loves us too. There is no mistaking God’s love. You can feel it in your heart.
If we choose not to love others then we are also choosing not to love God. If we choose not to love God then we are choosing not to go to the Father.
Love is our connection to God and through Him our connection to each other.
It is time to swallow our pride and to put our words into action.
If we want to go to heaven then we must humbly follow Jesus’ command:
'Love one another as I have loved you.'