Sixth Sunday of Easter - Cycle B - John 15:9-16
There are three words in our contemporary world which are strongly abused. These three words are: TRUTH, FREEDOM and LOVE.
1. To be right doesn’t mean necessarily to know the TRUTH, to respect the TRUTH, to live and abide in TRUTH.
2. FREEDOM is not about having a lot of choices; it is not about being able to pick and choose depending on our caprices. No, it is about doing what is good because that is what we most deeply desire. Real FREEDOM involves not making random choices but acting authentically from the very core of one’s being—where God is. It is in doing that which is best for us, doing only that which is in accordance with our true nature and our highest destiny.
3. To have the beautiful emotions and feelings to feel good doesn’t mean to LOVE.
Very often we confuse the TRUTH with being right, we confuse FREEDOM with anarchy. And we confuse LOVE with emotions and sentiments.
Jesus said in other place: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the TRUTH, and the truth will set you FREE.” (John 8, 32)
And in today’s Gospel He says:
"If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my LOVE, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15: 10-11)
This gospel passage is filled with beautiful statements about the ever popular subject of love. Jesus tells us that the Father loves him, and that he in turn loves us, and that we should love one another. Perhaps we have heard these sentiments expressed so often that we no longer realize how profound and dramatic they really are. Or maybe we don’t even know what love is? We use so often this word that I dare to say that this is the most abused word in our dictionary. Because Jesus is talking about love and not about sentiments and feelings, not about pleasure and sex ...
This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.’ This is the central text of today’s Gospel reading and indeed one could consider it one of the most fundamental texts of the Christian faith.
And yet it seems at first sight to contain a basic contradiction. How can one be commanded to love? We are all well aware that genuine love, real authentic love, must by definition be an entirely free choice. So how can Jesus ‘command’ us to express love one for another?
We tend to experience commands or laws or obligations as oppressive and as limiting to our freedom and personal autonomy. We think of rulers as overlords who wish to impose their will on us and we are instinctively reluctant to comply with external rules foisted on us in this way.
What we are dealing with here though is not the command of some dictator or oppressor but the command of God. This is the command of the only one who has our best interests at heart, the unique being who is more interested in us than we are in ourselves. It is the command of our creator, sustainer and redeemer and his command to love is entirely in our best interests.
In 1941, the German army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, at least 250 Jews were spared their lives. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942.
It took Germany almost sixty years to honor the memory of this man Schmid. Said Germany's Defence Minister in 2000 in saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist."
Name a person who better obeyed the admonition of the Christ in today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers.
What a welcome the court-martialed Anton Schmid must have received from Our Lord when he entered the Kingdom.
Being a Christian requires all the character we can summon up.
We have first at all to understand correctly these three words: TRUTH, FREEDOM and LOVE.
You have tried many times to be a Christian only to fall on your face. Do not grow tired. Reflect, as an historian tells us, that the first electric bulb was so faint that a lit candle had to be used along with it. Thirty-two hours were initially required to make the trip by steamboat from Albany to New York - a trip of but 150 miles. The initial flight of the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina lasted but 12 seconds. The top speed of the first car was anywhere from two to four miles each hour. We know what those inventions can do today.
Remember the aphorism that God makes a great finish out of a slow start and nothing can be done until we take the first step. Be patient. It takes an oak fifty years to produce an acorn.
Is the love of God is evident in our own family structures? We have to have rules in our families. Out of love for our children and our teenagers, we have to set guidelines so they can grow, develop, and spread their wings while they are still under our protection. More important than these rules is the reason for their establishment: love. You make rules for your children because you love them. At the same time, we have to be careful that we never allow a rule to destroy love. But also never allow the sentimental and irresponsible love destroys the rules ... because you put in danger and the rules and love.