Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of John (15: 9-11) in which Jesus says to his disciples “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. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete”.
Fr Paul says the word ‘commandment’ often implies coercion and regimentation, and the words ‘obedience’ implies an unwilling or even a sulky child. In the case of God’s commandments, which we hear of in the Gospel, however, a commandment needs to be seen as a gift, indicating the way in which love can be expressed; and obedience is a way of seeking to draw closer to God by imitation. The lover seeks to act like the beloved, to be modelled on the qualities which are loved and admired. The commands of God are not random or domineering but are indications of the ways in which we can draw just a little nearer to the infinite qualities which are seen in the creating and redeeming God. The generosity seen in the beauties of nature and humanity, in the beauty of tolerance and forgiveness, are reflections of the divine qualities. This is how Jesus kept his Father’s commandments and remained in his love, and how we, too, may do the same.
It might even be said that Jesus needed to suffer so that we might see that God, too, can endure suffering. Suffering and the supreme suffering of death are human experiences which cannot be expected of God, and so Jesus himself took them on to share and ennoble these experiences which cannot touch our God, such is the full meaning of the love expressed by ‘as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’
In closing, Fr Paul shares today’s Gospel Lesson – to love as Jesus loved.