“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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