May 20, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

Loving Jesus requires both words and actions

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

The Gospel reading for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Jn 14:23-29) reminds us that true love is a matter of action more than words. Jesus tells his disciples, and all of us, that “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23).

He goes on to say: “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me” (Jn 14:24).

What does the phrase “keep my words” mean for us? It is more than blind obedience, doing something simply because we have been told to do so. To keep Jesus’ words, we must take them to heart and accept them as coming from someone who knows what is best for us.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, who kept the Word of God in her heart, we are invited to keep Jesus’ words in our hearts as an act of love (as well as obedience) with the confidence born of faith that his commands are not capricious or arbitrary. In fact, we keep Jesus’ words because we believe they are full of divine wisdom, and because they reflect the will of our Father in heaven who loves us and wants us to be united with him.

We keep the words of Jesus, and discern what the will of God is for us, by means of a synodal process, a lifelong journey, that involves attentive listening to the Scriptures, encountering Jesus in the sacraments, and participating in the mission and ministries of our Church. In its simplest but most powerful expression, we keep the words of our Lord and Savior when we love one another as he loves us.

“Love and do what you will,” St. Augustine wrote. He was not suggesting that “anything goes as long as it appears to be loving.” That is self-deception, not real love. What St. Augustine meant was that actions that are motivated by genuine, unselfish, sacrificial love are the only really effective ways to express our love for God and for our neighbor. So, if our love is genuine, it will help us to be open to the guidance that can only come from God, and it will teach us to do the next right thing.

As Jesus tells us in this Sunday’s Gospel, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (Jn 14:26).

We can keep Jesus’ words because the Holy Spirit is our unfailing guide, the advocate who teaches us what God’s will is for us. He reminds us of the words that Jesus spoke that command us to love and forgive one another as God loves and forgives us.

By allowing the Holy Spirit to encourage us, and to direct our actions, we express our love for Jesus in both our words and our actions. “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me,” Jesus tells us (Jn 14:21). “And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

“If you remain in my word,” Jesus said, “you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31-32). Knowing Jesus’ commandments, and observing them, is the way we remain in his word. The result is that God’s love—his sanctifying grace—fills our hearts with love and goodness. As a result, we can experience the peace, love and joy that come only from union with God here in this life and throughout eternity.

In the end, only love matters. By keeping Jesus’ words, by knowing and observing his commandments, and by opening our hearts and minds to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we show ourselves to be people who abide in God’s love. “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid,” Jesus tells us. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (Jn 14:27).

As we continue our joyful observance of the Easter season, and as we prepare for the Synod of Bishops next year, let’s pray for the guidance, and the grace, to keep Jesus’ words so that God’s love will be with us as we follow his commandment to love God and one another. †

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