John the Evangelist puts into Jesus’ mouth a long farewell discourse, in which we find intensely summed up some fundamental points that his disciples need to remember throughout the coming years in order to be faithful to his person and to his project. These hold true for us today.
«Remain in my love». This is number one. It’s not just talking about living out a religion, but living in the love with which Jesus loves us, the love he received from the Father. Being Christian isn’t mainly a doctrinal matter, but a question of love. Throughout the centuries, the disciples will know uncertainties, conflicts and all kinds of difficulties. What’s important will always be not straying from love.
Remaining in Jesus’ love isn’t something theoretical or empty of meaning. It consists in «keeping his commandments», which he himself goes on to sum up in the command of mutual love: «This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you». The Christian finds all kinds of commandments in our religion. Their origin, nature and importance are diverse and unequal. With the passage of time, norms multiply. Only about the command of love does Jesus say: «This command is mine». In whatever epoch and situation, what’s decisive for Christianity is to not leave mutual love behind.
Jesus doesn’t present this command of love as a law that must rule our life, making it harder and heavier, but as a font of joy: «I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete». When true love is lacking among us, it creates a vacuum that nothing or no one can fill with joy.
Without love it’s not possible to move forward toward a Christianity that is more open, friendly, joyful, simple and kind, where we could live as «friends» of Jesus, according to the Gospel way of talking. We won’t know how to generate joy. Though we don’t want to, we will keep cultivating a Christianity that is sad, full of complaints, resentments, moaning and affliction. Our Christianity frequently lacks the joy that comes from doing and living with love. Our following of Jesus lacks the enthusiasm of innovation, and we’re full of the sadness that keeps coming because we don’t have the conviction of reproducing what Jesus wanted of us.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf