The Essence of Belief – Br. David Allen
“What is the essence of Christian belief?” That is a question we who are in the Church are sometimes asked. I think that today’s Gospel reading gives us as good an answer to that question as we might hope to find anywhere else.
At the Last Supper before his Passion and Crucifixion, Jesus said to his disciples “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 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. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15:9-11)
I can think of only two additional verses that might add a deeper understanding to the meaning of these verses. The first of these, also from the Gospel according to John, is this; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) The other verse is from the First Letter of John, “We love because [God] first loved us.” (1Jn. 4:19) The first of these verses tells us that God loves the world. The second of these shows us that all true love begins with God.
If we truly love God, as God loves us, we should not even desire to do anything contrary to the love of God.
Knowing how to love God can be difficult because we cannot see God. But we can learn to love God through prayer, and through observing God’s love shown to us through other people; mutual love.
We can also show our love as thanksgiving to God for all of the wonders of this world which God has created.
Loving one another can also be difficult. This is because of the differences that exist in each individual. Learning to accept those differences, and to appreciate them, can be ways for us to understand how to love one another better.
If we meditate on the wider context of the words Jesus gave us in today’s Gospel, reading the words that precede today’s portion of the Gospel, and continuing on, we can learn better how to live in and by the love that comes from God. (Cf. Jn 15:1-27)
It is by faith that we accept the love of God and respond to it.
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Psychologist Erich Fromm says in his “The Art of Loving” that love is not merely a feeling… in fact “the feeling” of love is superficial in comparison to one’s commitment to love via a series of actions toward another.” Jesus told his disciples to love their enemies- the invaders from Rome, armed and vicious. How? By going the second mile carrying the soldiers pack. Feelings are the most deceptive part of who we are. Be careful! We must examine our feelings in the light of our actions. “For God so loved… He gave….” He loved in His giving. He doesn’t romance us.
I loved your homily, Br. David. Love is the key! How easily it rolls off the tongue, but how difficult it is to actually love everybody, especially those who are unlike ourselves. I so enjoy John’s gospel. He gets to the core of the gospel in chapter after chapter. Thanks!
Thank you for your message of accepting one another, which to me is the key to accepting myself. As a child, I got hit over the head a lot with John 3:16, where the part “whoever believes in him” had a very narrow and suffocating context. Citing this verse on the path of appreciating differences is good news.
When I think of Love, I think of the phrase from the Beatles, “All you need is Love.” It is so simple but so deep.
This is so beautiful. It is clean and simple and pure. It is the essence of our faith so succinctly and clearly articulated. Thank you. I will share it widely.
The harder part then becomes believing so deeply in that love that it is reflected in your actions and speech as consistently as possible, that it transforms how u express yourself to the outside world.