I remember vividly one summer day in Chicago golfing with my brother Richard. We both had been hitting the ball fairly well and were pleased with our attempts at golf that day. At one point in the middle of the match Dick came over to me and put his arms around my shoulders and squeezed remarking, “That’s how God loves us!” It was a simple gesture but it was rife with meaning. We spoke about what he had said and done and it became clear to me the truth of what he demonstrated that day.
Today’s gospel may or may not have been the model for Dick’s action that beautiful day, but it is a clear demonstration of what Jesus says through St. John’s gospel: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Actually he says it two times – in the first and the very last verses in today’s reading (vv. 13, 17) adding emphasis to the strong statement itself and to call into focus and emphasis what is contained in between.
The “in-between” verses in John, continue Jesus’ words and clarify how he looks upon his disciples. He calls them friends. He makes the disciples equal to himself: so that as HE is related to the Father, THEY are related to him. What a fabulous thought – no, even more, what a fabulous reality. “What I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you (v.15).” He literally puts us in the middle of God’s divine and abiding love for His Son Jesus.
The purpose of that magnificent gift is so that, like Jesus, we may first receive God’s love and then release that love for others. We’re to “bear fruit” just as Jesus’ life, death and resurrection bore fruit in terms of service: service that flows naturally from the fact that we have been made “friends” by Jesus.
Jesus takes the initiative in the way that he lived his life and he passes the spirit of that initiative on to the disciples (and consequently on us). What a gift and what an honor.
Jesus, I ask you to continue to remind me as my brother reminded me that summer day, that you are the very center of my life and you call me into action/service by your initiating love. Gift us all with the spirit that makes us Friends in the Lord and be with us as we share that love with one another.
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