Love, Obedience and Joy

John 15: 9-17
Acts 1: 15-17. 20-26 / Ps 113: 1-8

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.
(John 15:11-12)

Your law of love, Lord, we will obey,
Even if it’s hard to understand;
Because we trust all the words You say,
And what joy to follow Your command.

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for I have made known to you everything that I learned from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my commandment: Love one another.” (John 15: 9-17)

Reflection

Nine times in these 9 verses Jesus mentions the word ‘love’. He seems to be emphasizing that this is all about love: The Father’s love for Him, His love for His apostles, and their love for one another. This Gospel passage in fact begins and ends with the commandment to love. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” And He proved what he preached, dying on the cross for all of us, His friends. His point is this: Love is more important than life itself, simply because life ends here on earth, while love goes on forever, even in the eternal kingdom of God. St. Paul later cited this in his letter to the Corinthians: “Love will last forever… There are three things that will endure — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love” (1Cor.13:8a,13).

Obedience to the law of love follows out of our love for Jesus and His Father. This means we obey all of God’s commandments because we have experienced His love, and we want to reciprocate this love to others, not out of duty, but out of gratitude for all His blessings, and our desire to please God. In fact we should find it easy to obey His commands because we are doing it out of love. And even our tasks and burdens in serving God and our Church become light because of love. However, if we obey the commandment of love because we are anticipating some future blessing from the Lord, or we are praying for something from God, then our obedience is not based on genuine love. Fidelity to the law of love should be consistent whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” God gave us the law of love because He wants us to be His friends. It is in the constant practice of love, in the kind and gentle words that we speak, in the helping hands that we extend, in the time and sacrifice that we give to those who hunger for love or compassion that we become true friends of God.

Not everyone responds to God’s invitation to love. But those who are fortunate enough to hear and follow His call will bear fruit, fruit that will last. Earlier in this chapter of John, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn.15:5). Joy is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit. The second is peace. It is these fruits that our Lord Jesus wants us to have. He knows that when we have learned to love as He loved us, then we will truly be filled with “joy that is complete”. As the psalmist wrote, it is the man who delights in the law of the Lord, and in His law (of love) meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2) who is happiest.

Your law of love is perfect, Lord, for it has converted many souls. May our testimony of Your love bring others to Your fold. May Your commands be our constant source of joy. Amen.

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