I love this Gospel reading because of the way it talks about love. It would be easy enough to say that if we just love each other a little more, everything will be fine. And there is some truth to that. If we loved each other a bit more, things would certainly be better. And if we loved each other perfectly, things would definitely approach the perfection God has in mind for the world.
However, Jesus is going for a rather specific action of love here. He says, “Remain in my love.” The word “remain” here is important; it is a translation of the Greek word meno, which is a word that connotes an abiding presence, a rootedness at one’s core. Translating meno as“remain” is a bit too passive, kind of like sitting around and doing nothing, all covered with the love of God. I think the better translation would be “live and breathe always in my love.”
And that’s what Jesus goes on to say. “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” So this remaining in Jesus’ love involves keeping his commandments. What commandments does Jesus have in mind specifically? Well, they revolve around love. In Matthew’s Gospel, when the scholar of the law asks which of the commandments was the greatest, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Putting God and neighbor first in the same way as Jesus did for us is what this kind of love entails. We certainly have to note at this point that the way Jesus put us first was by laying down his life on the cross. Remaining in Jesus’ love, the command he gives us today, involves loving others in a sacrificial way, putting aside our own interests and ambitions at times, dying to self, so that we can give life to others.
But this is not to make ourselves doormats or even grumpy Christians. This love leads to true joy, because in many ways it takes away the worry of having to think about ourselves. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” And so it is with great joy that we remain in Christ’s love; loving others as he has loved us – sacrificially and unconditionally. And with this great love, as the Psalmist says, we “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.”
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!