We were reminded last week in the passage from the First Letter of John that “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”
The love that the Father has for us is made known in his Son, Jesus Christ. Receiving this love, we are invited and called to live in the life of love.
The reading continues today: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” Jesus shows us this love in his words and actions. He is love. This love is poured into us through the sacraments. In baptism we are united with Christ and, as St. Paul reminds us, we have become adopted children of God. Through union with Christ we enter into the dynamic mystery of love.
In last week’s Gospel passage, Jesus said: “Remain in my love.” St. John, in his First Letter, also speaks of “remaining.” The call to “remain” is eliciting an ongoing response from us. Three aspects of our response are offered for consideration: the presence of the Spirit, the activity of love and the call to faith.
The presence of the Spirit. Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. Jesus had prepared us for the outpouring of the Spirit we celebrate on this feast. Through the Spirit Jesus remains with his church and dwells in and among us. We received the gift of the Spirit in baptism and are “sealed” with the Spirit in confirmation. The Spirit animates our lives and helps us to live the life of love.
St. John therefore refers to the Spirit (in the second reading) as the source of confirming God’s loving presence in us: “This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit.” Through this Spirit we are consecrated in the “truth” of which Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel. The Spirit dwelling in us not only confirms God’s loving presence but empowers us to love.
The activity of love is rooted in dying to self. Jesus said (in last week’s Gospel passage) “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.” The greatest commandment is “to love one another as I have loved you.”
St. John reminds us in his reflections on love that because God has loved us we must love one another. This love entails a dying; a laying down of one’s life for another as Jesus did for us. The “dying” is a dying to self by putting the good of another before our own. The activity of love is regular and ongoing. The pouring out of oneself in love allows one to be filled with God’s love. So St. John writes: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”
The third aspect of the “remaining” entails faith. St. John writes: “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.” Jesus continually calls us to believe – to believe in him. Faith in the Son ushers one into the life of love that is eternal (cf. John 3:31-36). In baptism, we (or our parents for us) profess this faith. Every year we renew this baptismal profession in the renewal of our promises on Easter. Faith in Jesus and the paschal mystery of his passion, death and resurrection helps us to “remain” in love.
Love permeates life. God, who is love, invites us to share in this life through his Son. Jesus shows us the love of God and how to live in this life of love. The call to remain in this love is a call to an open heart to receive the love of God and a willing spirit to share what has been received.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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