GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The Sixth Sunday of Easter for Year B takes us further into the Gospel of John with Jesus' Last Supper discourse. So last week we were looking at the famous image of the vine and the branches, and this Sunday the gospel picks up right where last week left off and continues into Jesus' teaching on the new commandment, the commandment to love one another as he has loved us. So we’re going to begin with the gospel and then we'll go back and look at the Acts of the Apostles once again, as in previous studies. So this week’s gospel is from John 15:9-17 and it’s all focused on love, and this is what Jesus says:
As the Father has loved me, so have I 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.
Okay, what’s the meaning of these words in the gospel today? Let's highlight a few elements here. First, we want to remember that the context of these words is Jesus' discourse to the disciples at the Last Supper. So everything that Jesus is saying here is being said within the context of sharing this meal with his disciples before he dies and having given to them his body and his blood under the appearance of food and drink at this Passover meal. So in that context Jesus has just given an allegory of the vine and the branches, which is I pointed out in a previous video was a Eucharistic image, right, that Christ is the vine we are the branches, and the fruit of the vine is, of course, the blood of the grape, from which we make wine, the fruit of the grape. And, so in that Eucharistic context, Jesus is taking the analogy of the vine and the branches even further and giving us an image for what it means to abide in him and what it means to bear fruit, with a particular focus on love, which in Greek is the word is agapē,
this sacrificial love that he's calling his disciples to carry out and to emulate in him. And, so he says here that the Father has loved me and so I have loved you, and he tells them to abide in his love, to abide in his agapē,
to abide in this divine love that he gives to us. And, the way we do that is by keeping his commandments. So he says if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I who kept the Father's commandments abide in his love.
So notice the stress here that Jesus puts on obedience. I want to say this again, there are some Christian traditions that will say all that matters is faith, works don't matter at all, all you have to do is believe in Jesus, accept him as your savior and then you can never lose your salvation. Well that's just not true. If you look at what Jesus says in the scripture itself, in order to remain in him, to be a branch that's united to the vine and therefore receiving its life from the vine, we have to keep his commandments, we have to obey his teachings. If we fail to keep his commandments, then think here of all the major commandments, you know, against adultery or idolatry, if we break the commandments we are cut off from the vine, we’re cut off from the source of our life, we’re cut off from the love of Christ, the saving love of Christ which should fill us with his grace and fill us with his life. If we reject that love, we also reject that life, the life of salvation.
So he says to them, I'm telling you these things...
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Okay, so how does this all play out in a concrete way, this metaphysical, ontological, philosophical statement about God — He is love? John goes on. He says:
In this the love of God was made manifest among us…
So in other words, the way God showed us, showed humanity that He is love is twofold. Number one, the Incarnation:
...that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
And then number two:
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.
So what are the two ways God shows us in the world and in history that He is love? It’s through the mystery of the Incarnation, the sending of His Son, and through the mystery of the Passion, of the Paschal Mystery… through the death of His Son by which He reconciled the world to Himself.
So in other words, John doesn’t remain at the level of a kind of metaphysical statement about the being of God. He takes it down to salvation history, and he says he has revealed this mystery of the fact that He is love to us through sending His Son in the Incarnation and sending His Son to die for our sins in the Passion and death — these two great moments in salvation history.
That’s just a basic kind of explanation of his words. Now let’s look at the living tradition for just a moment to kind of deepen our understanding of these words. So the first thing I would want to say is if we turn to St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica
, which I’ve mentioned before, Thomas helps us by giving a definition of love that’s going to be really foundational for understanding what it means to say that God is love and how the Incarnation and the Passion reveal God’s love.
So in the Summa Theologica
, question 20, article 2, part 1 — well, it’s part 1, question 20, article 2… actually article 1. At the end of that article, he defines love — caritas
in Latin or agapē
in Greek. He says:
...to love a person is to wish that person good.
Or some translations have “to will the good for another.”
So again, notice how for Thomas, love isn’t an emotion first and foremost. It’s a choice. It’s an act of the will to choose the good for another. And that’s exactly what God does, St. Thomas says, in the Incarnation and in the Passion.
How so? Well, let me give you two quotes from St. Thomas. This is fantastic. In the Summa
, Thomas has these two articles where he deals with whether the Incarnation was really necessary … or whether God could have revealed Himself in some other way. And he also has a question about whether the Passion of Christ is really necessary for our salvation or whether He could have saved humanity in some other way.
And in both instances, he says, “Of course. God could have revealed Himself and saved humanity through some other means than the Incarnation and the Passion of Christ in the Crucifixion.” Because He’s omnipotent. He’s all powerful. He could do it any way He chose. But the reason He saves the world through the Incarnation and through the Passion is because both of these mysteries best and most fully reveal the love of God for humanity. So just take this in. Listen to these words of St. Thomas with regard to the Incarnation. He says this:
It seems that it was not necessary for the reparation of the human race that the Word of God should become incarnate… For God of His omnipotent power could have restored human nature in many other ways
Alright, pause there. He’s right. He goes on to say God could have simply declared all of humanity to be saved, and we would be. He has that power, and He has that right. But it’s not how He does it. Why? Thomas continues:
[However,] Augustine says (De Trin
. xiii.): Nothing was so necessary for raising our hope as to show us how deeply God loved us. And what could afford us a stronger proof of this than that the Son of God should become a partner with us of human nature?
Thirdly, with regard to charity
, which is greatly enkindled by this; hence Augustine says (De Catech. Rudit. iv.): What greater cause is there of the Lord’s coming than to show God’s love for us?
And he afterwards adds: If we have been slow to love, at least let us hasten to love in return.
Alright, so pause there. Basically what Thomas (following Augustine) is saying is, is that God could have simply declared us all to be forgiven, like a judge might say “not guilty” and remit the punishment of someone… or forgiven. You’re forgiven; you’re not going to be punished for your sin.
But God doesn’t just want to save us from Hell. He wants to unite us with Him. He wants to bring us into divine life of the blessed Trinity, which is a relationship of love. And so it’s fitting, Thomas said, that God would come to us in the Incarnation and become fully human in order to show us the proof of His love for us, that He loved us so much that He became one of us in order to lead us and journey with us back to the life of God, back to the mystery of the Trinity, back to the Father and to the love from which we fell.
So, the Incarnation, Thomas is saying, should move us to love God in return, out of gratitude for the love that He showed us. And that’s really what salvation is all about. It’s not about not going to Hell. It’s about loving God, so the Incarnation is a motive for humanity to love God in return — a God who loved us so much that He emptied Himself of His divine glory and became fully human… assumed our humanity in order to redeem it and then to bring it back to God...
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