If You Really Love Me…
Sixth Sunday of Easter. Fr Rudolf Löwenstein ponders a dangerous ‘if’.
Imagine the scenario: an older brother or sister is desperately trying to get a recalcitrant toddler to co-operate. Maybe the toddler won’t get up from the floor, or perhaps the toddler is playing with something unsafe. The possibilities are endless? And in desperation, the brother or sister says ‘Well, if you really loved me, you would get up off the floor/stop playing with?’
An unwise phrase to use, because if the toddler is cross enough it will certainly not want to co-operate and that could lead to further trouble.
And again: think of the plots of any number of different stories or films where the idea of love is being used as a bribe to get someone to do something they otherwise would not do. Dangerous stuff, as often the person who utters the ‘if you love me’ bribe does not really love the person with whom they are dealing? so that any bargain struck or deal dealt is carried out on unlevel ground.
So when we hear today’s Gospel, we have to sit back and think. We may be reminded of the times that people have told or asked us about whether we love them or not, or whether we are willing to make sacrifices in the name of some form of love. The big difference is that it is Jesus who is presenting us with this statement: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’
Gone are the dubious or uncertain grounds for making or breaking a promise, as we know that Jesus will never let us down. And we know that not only does Jesus love us, but that he knows us more than we can even know ourselves. So it stands to reason that he knows what is best for us; hence his commandments. They are not there to imprison us or to force us to co-operate in things whose value we doubt, but instead they are there to help us lead the life that will lead to eternal happiness.
So if we love Jesus, we will keep his commandments. Simple, isn’t it? But what of our world today with so many of us who try to keep his commandments but do not always manage to do so? Do we really love Jesus as we ought?
And that is an important question to consider. Each time we go to confession or recite the confiteor we can ponder this question anew and try to answer it honestly. And if we do not love Jesus as we ought, and we know in our heart of hearts what we are doing wrong or where we are going wrong, then let us rely on the Advocate, the counselor that Jesus promised to send us — and will send us, every time we ask.
Our Advocate will gently indicate the way to us that we should go, the paths that need to be repaired, the relationships in need of further inspection or care. For this Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, is a gift from God. And being from God, it can never do harm, never do wrong, never lead us into danger. We may of course be led in ways that we did not expect or anticipate, but if we are truly open to God and all his gifts then we must also be open to go where he would will for us to go.
So let us ask ourselves once again: Do we really love Jesus? Do we really try to keep his commandments? Are we open to all God’s gifts? Do we earnestly and genuinely wish for the Spirit of truth to enter into our hearts and stay with us always?
If we are at all uncertain about any of our answers to these questions, then let us pray — pray that we might truly be open to the scriptures, open to God, open to Jesus and what he asks of us in love. And pray that as Pentecost approaches we too might become filled with the Spirit and completely open to the love and freedom in Christ that is promised to us as a result.