by Deacon Michael Bickerstaff | May 9, 2021 12:04 am
“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.” (John 15:9-12).
In John 15:12, Jesus tells his apostles, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” In this passage, Jesus is preparing His Apostles for His departure and the coming of the Holy Spirit. After three long years with them, these are among His final words of instruction. These words must be important. Again, He tells them that if they love Him, they will keep His commandments. Earlier in His public ministry Jesus told a scribe that the greatest of the commandments is that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and that the second is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Now we would think that the Apostles understood this. They loved Jesus, they were trying to live good and holy lives. Yet He knew they still needed to learn to love as He does and so do we. Jesus makes it very simple… for them and for us, “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
Do we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? Do we love one another as Jesus loves us? If we say that we love Jesus, we have to take seriously these words of His. We must be people of love. Some of you might be thinking, “Oh no, not another article on love! Right?” But we have to listen to Jesus… He deems it essential that His Apostles get this right… and so must we, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you… love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:9,12).
If we are going to be His disciples… if we are going to say that we love Jesus… we must be people of love!
So how do we love Him and love one another? Those who know me have heard me frequently ask, “What is your most important task on earth? What is the meaning of my life?” The Catechism teaches us we are to know, love and serve God in this life so as to be with Him forever in the life to come. The most important thing we do is to attain heaven and to be the instruments by which others attain heaven. This is the supernatural end that our God wills for us.
We serve God by serving others… by being Christ to them. But notice that service flows from our knowing and loving God. We cannot love others, with the love of Christ, unless we first love Him. It is our love for Him that must motivate our love of neighbor.
Notice also that loving God comes from knowing Him. We cannot fully love God, if we do not know Him. And we cannot know Him, if we do not spend time with Him, each day in prayer. Our good works, to be effective toward our spiritual end, must flow from an ever-deepening love of God in our very souls.
Did you pray yesterday? If not, why not? Does it seem like you just don’t ever have time to pray? Did you spend more time watching television than praying? If so, is it possible that you love television more than God? You bet it is. Let’s change that!
I can promise you without hesitation, that if you will commit to spending just thirty minutes a day, alone in prayer, planning your day around your prayer instead of your prayer around your day, the loving and serving part will come as surely as the light of day follows the dark of night. I can guarantee it! And you know what else, if you do this, one day soon, you will find yourself spending an hour or more in daily prayer… loving God more deeply and intensely than you ever imagined possible. In so knowing and loving God, Jesus increases and we decrease. We come to truly place Him who is above all at the very center of our lives… and then we will love others as He has loved us being Christ to those we places in our lives.
You see, we do not exist to bring people to ourselves, but rather to bring people to Him. If we are going to say that we love Jesus… we must be people of prayer!
How do we bring others to Christ? Most effectively, we bring people to Christ by the examples of our lives. This is another reason why the integration of our faith throughout our daily lives—in the home, workplace, marketplace and public square. It is there that people see us in the ordinary happenings of daily life. How do we treat others? How do we behave? Are we compassionate, caring, respectful, attentive, loving people who manifest a generousity of spirit toward all whom we meet or are we self-centered, rude, disrespectful, arrogant and prideful? If we are the former, we will attract those who are open to the Lord and they will ask you why you are the way you are.
In 1 Peter, St. Peter instructs us to be ready for these people and their questions, whatever their motives are. He says:
“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:15-18).
People of love… we are to be neither arrogant or rude, neither condescending or spiteful. We are to answer in love, giving witness to Christ with our words to explain our good deeds, joy and hope. We are to be prepared to do this for those who approach with hope as well as for those who approach with hate. Then our witness will be strong and sure.
Who do people see when they see you? Do they see the Lord?
If we truly love Him, and keep His commandments, people will see Jesus when they look at us. Sometimes we will fail. When we fail to manifest Christ—and we will—ask forgiveness and pray for the grace to do better next time. And then get on with the Lord’s work.
Who do people see when they look at you? Who do you see when you look at me? God knows that all too often, when people look at me, they do not see Him. So, to those who see me and not the Lord when they look at me, I ask you to forgive me… and to pray for me… for those times that I failed to be Jesus for you. Can we all do that for one another?
Jesus promised that if we love Him, He would not leave us orphans. That even though the world will no longer see Him as it did before He returned to the Father, that we would see Him still, because the Blessed Trinity… Father, Son and Holy Spirit would come to live in us. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:23). When we die to self, others will see Him when they look at us.
The God of the universe loves you. He sent His Son so that you might know Him. His Son has sent the Holy Spirit to be with you always. Let God love you. Let Him speak with you. If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this… to be a people of love we must be a people of prayer and service.
To love others as Christ loves you, you must first love Jesus… to truly love Jesus, you must come to know Him… to come to know Him, you must spend time with Him in prayer each day… whether it is assisting at Holy Mass, praying the rosary, reading and meditating on Scripture… place yourself in the Presence of God Who loves and cherishes you. Talk to Him… and then be silent… be still… for He wants to talk to you too.
But, it does not stop there. This knowledge of and love for God must lead to service to others. If we are going to say that we love Jesus… we must be people of service! This need to go out among the people and serve is so important that the Divine Liturgy in the Latin Church is called the Mass, from the Latin word to be sent. The only place in scripture where we are given a description of the separation of the saved from the damned, teaches us that service to those who are the least matters the most. This is how we are to live in the Kingdom.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (excerpted from Matthew 25:31-46).
Into the Deep…
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