Monday, May 7, 2018

What it Looks Like to be a "John 15" Catholic

"This I command you: love one another."
(Jn 15:19)

It all seems simple enough: God who is Love creates out of love--for the sake of love--and enters into history to call all of creation to love.

There are no conditions or qualifiers, no "ifs, ands or buts," to this existential imperative.  Indeed, to make the command even more blunt, the Lord adds these pointed prepositional phrases:

  • "As the Father loves me..."
    (Jn 15:9)
  • "This is my commandment:
    love one another As I love you."

    (Jn 15:12)

Catholic Christians dare to live the fullness of the faith handed down through the Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium of the Church by striving to live this "As."  Love-in-the-flesh, our crucified and risen Lord, continues to command that we love neither as the world loves, nor as we might feel like loving, but as the Father and the Son love.

"John 15" Catholics embrace this fairly straightforward equation for Christian love-- 
"As" = Remain + Keep + Bear :
  1. Remain.  Jesus uses the word at least ten times throughout John 15. It is an internal connection, an abiding within, an indwelling.  It is an assurance that "laying down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13) does not happen by our own power.  It is a promise of grace which overflows--a promise that we can help personally transmit the power which sustains the whole cosmos--if only we accept the gift.
  2. Keep.  How do we know whether we are actually accepting this gift?  We must check the purity of our intentions and master our motivations by simple obedience.  We must never trivialize or sentimentalize Jesus' preaching on love, since the Lord states that this command is is directly related to the fact that "I have kept my Father's commandments" (Jn 15:10).  Willing the Will of the Father is Jesus' life story, and he wants to draw us into this eternal exchange.
  3. Bear.  "Bear much fruit" (Jn 15:5); "bear fruit that will remain" (Jn 15:16).  Loving as Jesus love--a self-giving, self-sacrificing, self-emptying love--ensures that our lives will be fruitful.  Like the grain of wheat that goes into the ground, the death to self brings abundant new productivity in Christ.

    Such a life of love will necessarily include bearing many hardships, as Jesus promises (Jn 15:18-25).  Yet, he also assures us an Advocate, "the spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father" (Jn 15:26).

    Lest there be any question why the Lord of Love would speak such a challenging command, he assures us that our remaining, our keeping and our bearing will add up as he intends:
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete."
(Jn 15:11)

Come, Holy Spirit!

P.S.  Click here for an opportunity to subscribe to read Pope Francis's new Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, one-week-at-a-time: The paragraphs will arrive daily, but each Sunday's post will offer a week in review.