Solemnity of the Holy Trinity: Reflecting on God’s Love for Us

Archbishop Pérez’s Remarks: Villanova University Commencement

Opening Our Hearts to Receive the Holy Spirit

Jesus is the Vine, We are the Branches

Jesus Christ: Our Cornerstone

Invitation to the Schools of Missionary Discipleship

Msgr. Joseph Prior

The gospel passage for today’s liturgy continues the passage from last week. Jesus used the image of the vine to express His intimate union with us. He reminded us: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He also said: “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” One way to describe this relationship of which Jesus speaks is a “communion of love.”

In today’s passage, Jesus urges: “Remain in my love.” What does He mean by this? Is His love something that could be damaged? Or lost? Or abandoned? No, His love is constant, pure, powerful, merciful and resilient. Our love, on the other hand, is in a state of being perfected. It longs for completion but recognizes its own weaknesses and limitations. So Jesus’ words today refer to our striving, longing and living in His love.

Last week Saint John, in his first letter, mentioned keeping the commandments as a way of remaining in Jesus. The commands He mentions are believing in Jesus and to love one another. John’s word are a reflection of what Jesus Himself teaches, particularly evident in today’s reading. Jesus tells us that we “remain in His love” when we “keep the commandments” – just has He has kept the Father’s commandments “and remains in His love.”  Jesus powerfully pulls the commandments together in one that is fundamental to all: “love one another as I have loved you.”

Lest we get lost in what might seem to be a very general statement, He continues: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus lives this command of love. He offers Himself for us. He willingly lays down His life on the cross in love. The cross is foreshadowed earlier in the gospel when Jesus, just before He was arrested, washed the feet of the disciples. That act of servitude might seem simple to us today (especially if we are thinking of the ritualized washing at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper) but was actually quite magnificent. In Jesus’ day not even a slave could be forced to wash someone’s feet – so menial and degrading it was deemed. Jesus’ washing of the feet points to the cross where His loving service will come to perfection. At the same time, He teaches us that the love we live involves a life of service, giving of ourselves in love to each other. Jesus says at the end:

Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. (John 13:12b-17)

Loving one another is realized in acts of compassion, mercy, and kindness. Jesus articulates this elsewhere as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, welcoming the foreigner, forgiving the sinner (even many times), and so forth. These acts, using Jesus’ vine imagery from last week, are fruits of His love flowing through us. His love remains the focus and it is His love that empowers us to love.

Saint John, in today’s second reading, urges us to keep the command of love. He goes so far as to write: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Then he wonderfully focuses our attention to that love:

In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
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.

Remaining in Jesus is living in the communion of divine love. We live with Him, and through Him, with the Father and Holy Spirit.

The communion of love becomes visible in our love for each other, in giving of ourselves for the good of the other, in laying down our lives for our friends.

***

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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