Year B 6th Sunday Easter: John 15,09-17

15:09 I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.

15:10 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.

15:11 I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.

15:12 This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.

15:13 No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.

15:14 You are my friends, if you do what I command you.

15:15 I shall no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know the master's business;
I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything
I have learnt from my Father.

15:16 You did not choose me, no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last;
so that the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name.

15:17 My command to you is to love one another.

This reading is the sequence of the reading from last Sunday, taken from Jesus’ speech at Last Supper (John 13-17). Jesus is giving his own reflections to the disciples.

The summary of this text could be, ‘Love remains.’ Two key words in John’s Gospel: ‘love’ and ‘remaining’.

The word ‘loving’ occurs 5 times in the text of today; the word ‘love’ 4 times. The word ‘remaining’ 4 times.

The word ‘remaining’ is very dear to John. In the first chapter two disciples asked Jesus ‘Where do you remain?’ Today we hear the answer, ‘I remain in the love of my Father, God.’ In John’s Gospel the word ‘remaining’ pictures God’s way of being; his eternity. When we keep this in mind the last remark of Jesus is a surprise, ‘I commissioned you to bear fruit which will ‘remain’ (pity that the translation gives ‘last’ here, instead of ‘remain’). Why a surprise? The fruit of the disciples will share God’s way of being. Their fruit will be in God.

Heaven on earth!

Jesus is the human incarnation of God’s word. He made true that we, people, are wrapped in the cloud of God’s love; that God and people are sharing one and the same mystery; that there is no separation anymore between God far above in his heaven and us here below upon earth. No, since Jesus, God and people, heaven and earth are united into one existence. God and human beings are breathing and sharing one atmosphere: love, Holy Spirit.

Keeping commandments
‘If you keep my commandments’ could give a forcing impression. But that is not what Jesus means. His commandment is ‘love one another’. If you keep this commandment my Father will love you... There will be an intimate relation of love between God, my Father, and you, as it is between God, my Father, and me. And God, my Father, will be known to you more and more.

‘Love one another as I have loved you’
Jesus’ love was stunning. Some moments before he had announced that Peter would deny him (13:38) and in the same breath he said, ‘Don’t let your heart be disturbed. I will go to my Father’s house to prepare a place for you’ (14:01-02). He had already forgiven Peter before he had committed his mistake! Talk about love. Remember with how much love he approached the Samaritan woman (04,04-42) and the adulterous woman (08:02-11). Jesus promises, ‘That love will be yours.’ Ours?

Picture Meditation

We are looking at a stained glass window (1878) in the hall of the Christchurch in Dublin, Ireland.

Love (‘Charity’) is pictured as a woman in a circle, symbol of perfection and eternity. She is clothed in a stainless white garment and she is sitting on a golden (colour of heaven!) throne against a red (colour of love!) background. She is surrounded by seven flames or fiery tongues (the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit?). She is stretching her hands to illustrate that her love will be spread all over the world.

Her circle is surrounded by six other circles, each with a pictured woman, representing a virtue connected with love.

On top: ‘faith’ with the cross and the chalice, opposite of her at the bottom ‘hope’, running forward in - look at the expression of her face - difficult situations. On the right side: ‘Fortitudo’ (Strength’ with a sword) and ‘Temperantia’ (‘Temperateness’ with an elegant belt and a chain); on the left side: ‘Justice’ (with her balance and her sword) and ‘Prudence’ (with a mirror from which she turns away).

All those attributes are given to these virtues by tradition. If I would have been asked to picture ‘Love’: which symbols would I give to her, based upon my own experience? The same question for the virtues around Love.

And if I would have been asked to surround Love with virtues would I come to the same six as the artist of this window made? Or would I choose other ones, based upon my own experience?

Finally I have a talk with ‘Love’ and I make a prayer of it.

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ