At the risk of really dating myself with this movie reference, I remember the movie “Love Story” and the famous line from the film “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Hey, it was the early 70’s and we were just coming out of the tumultuous 60’s. We needed a bit of saccharine sweetness!
But does love really mean never having to say you’re sorry? Really? Is our understanding of authentic love really encompassed by such a sentiment?
All rhetorical questions, I know. But, hopefully, it also asks us today to consider our understanding of love. Because if we get the definition of love wrong or if we fail to constantly strive to fill up our understanding of love, the consequences to our everyday lives can be huge! We could end up not really knowing authentic love at all, and we were made to know true love in our lives. In fact, our faith insists that we understand God as Love Himself. Miss love, precious friends, and you will never know God. Never truly know God and you can forget ever really becoming yourself. Sounds important to me.
Our Gospel lesson today is leading us to the Feast of Pentecost this Sunday. Our Lord Jesus declares “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (see St. John 14:21-24)
“If a man loves me…” The Lord goes on to define the outcome of love as obedience. But what is it about obedience that really shows we love God?
First, obedience displays trust. Sure, you can obey out of a fear of punishment, but you don’t have to love someone you fear. Jesus ties obedience to love in such a way that we begin to understand that when I love God I desire to hear Him and I trust He knows me best and wants what is best for me. I trust God and that trust flows from the fact that I love Him.
Second, obedience displays faithfulness. Notice the Lord used the word “keep” in reference to His word. It isn’t just that we “do” what God says, but we hold and treasure the word of God (by the way, Word of God is a Person – see John 1). We so treasure the wisdom of God and the Person of God that we expend the energy, time, and resources to preserve and propagate His Word from generation to generation. For this reason we pass on our devotion to and for God to our children.
Finally, obedience displays connection. What I mean by connection is that we are as tied to God as a branch to a tree. Eventually the branch becomes so like the tree trunk that one can’t really tell the “two” apart! I am moving in “symphony” with God, to the point that the “family” resemblance is so strong there is no doubt as to Whom I belong. “That boy looks just like his daddy!”
As we move toward the Feast of the Coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) we are led to see what we are to be if we really and truly love God. The kicker is, my dearest, that we are simply unable to accomplish this spiritual marathon without Help. So, here comes the Holy Spirit to fill us with God’s strength to accomplish this lifelong journey to being like Christ.
Today, is your definition of “love” large enough to spur you on to greater devotion to God. Is your “love” in need of a makeover? Would you like your definition of “love” to stretch your soul into a larger vessel to hold more of God’s presence in your life? Don’t worry, Pentecost is coming and the Holy Spirit is just the Person to restore the Image of God in you and shape the likeness of Christ in you.
Today, love deeper!