Spiritually driven people often choose the solitary life, because they believe that this gives them the best way to encounter God deep within their being. These people are likely to suggest that while they do not connect with individuals well, in their silence they feel connected to humanity in a broad and general sense.
This second group is different from the first because they have found a way of loving. Maybe there is never a simple answer for the way we interact with people if our search is for loving, for love is a far more all embracing experience.
We all display different types of personality and character types. So what makes sense to one person may not make sense to another. From our gospel reading today, I imagine some get confused by Jesus’ declaration…
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…You are my friends if you do what I command you…I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Here, I’ve picked the few sentences that emphasise the word command. It sounds very authoritarian and hence might cause us to resist. In another conversation I had during the week, the gentleman reminded me of why the church is no longer popular because people do not like to be told how to live. I want to emphasize a different slant on the way we might understand his use of commandment.
For Jesus to speak of a commandment is not so much a command, but a declaration that this is a foundational reality of life. The scientist seeks a description of the most fundamental component of the physical world. The lawyer discerns the priority of one law over another. The doctor the prime cause of illness.
Jesus the master of life tells us that the foundation dynamic of our interrelated nature of experience is love. Without love, you are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, says St. Paul.
How well do you thing you score on the love scale. Let me test you. How would you score yourself in the family? And what would your partner say? As a parent? As a neighbour? With a stranger? With the homeless? With a drug addict? With refugees? The prisoner? That’s enough.
The point is that we are really people who live on a love journey and our performance is probably modest. This is not a criticism but an acknowledgement that we all have our limits and the journey is an ongoing one through our three score years and ten.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus highlights a major key to maturing in the life of love. He says: As the Father has loved me, so I have 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.
How do we abide? Lets look at four suggestions. Two interior ones and two exterior ones
1. We are deeply shaped by our thinking. The first way to abide in Jesus is to know his story. Always the constant reflection upon the story handed down to us through the scripture is a vital means of abiding.We think about it, we mull over it, we let his model of life shape our understanding of the ultimate love. Abiding in Jesus life story and teachings shapes the mental models that shape our mind.
2. A long practiced traditional approach to prayer is known as ‘lectio Divina’ It is the systemized prayerful reflection upon the scripture accounts of Jesus.’ One may read it, discuss it, but then prayerfully dwell on its essential message. As one might enjoy soaking in a hot bath on a cold winters night, so one can delight in soaking in the truth of Jesus in a quiet reflective time of meditation.
The second way we abide in Jesus is through deep silent prayer.
3. From such interior experiences of abiding, we turn our minds toward the exterior world, the world of loving our neighbour. The third way we abide in Jesus is meeting ourselves in the stranger, the needy, the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry the homeless, says the parable of the sheep and goats. How can we say we love if we see a stranger with no clothes and fail to offer our coat. The spirit of love comes alive when we give expression to it in the opportunities that come our way in life. You might remember the ad sometime back presenting people meeting themselves in different condition and age.
There is something about meeting ourselves in the stranger. That is the call of love… ‘to love our neighbour as ourself.’
4. The fourth way of abiding, is capturing the spirit and intent of our actions in dialogue in community. Discussion is fundamental to building community. But in its common way it regularly highlights our differences, of experience or opinions. It can just as easily divide community. Dialogue speaks of the search for understanding through discussion or communication. Dialogue enables us to enter one another’s life at deeper and deeper realms of our relationships. It is learning to abide.
Jesus uses one of our most treasured experiences of life, to capture the essence of this notion of abiding. It is friendship. You are my friends if you keep my commandments. In other words, if you ground your very being in the most fundament experience of life, ie the essence of love, we share our life as friends with Jesus. Jesus is virtually saying, my vision is not demanding you or standing above you as a master. Rather, when we learn the way of abiding we become friends, friends of love.
Christians are people whose life style is love. Friends of Jesus.