John 15: 9-17
“All you need is Love” sang the Beatles in the middle of the last century. I‘m sure they knew that they were not original. Christ’s teaching on love permeates the whole Gospel, and today’s gospel reading from St John celebrates this love and joy. With so much gloom and doom around, as well as genuine tragedy and sadness, it is so important to remember that love, joy, peace and all the other gifts of the Spirit are part of our lives.
The literature of love is wide and varied. C.S. Lewis distinguishes four kinds of love in his book ‘The Four Loves’: affection, friendship, eros or sexual love, and caritas, this last being the perfect love God has for us and that we are asked to have for each other. The other ‘loves’ can be foundations for this perfect love. The poets have much to say on the subject, and say it so beautifully.
‘And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again;
And for thy sake that all like dear didst buy,
with love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought.
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.’
(Edward Spenser, ‘Easter’)
In our lives love cannot be something we preserve, frame and admire. It is a verb, as well as a noun. We must be practical about it. Eckhart puts this quite bluntly when he says:’ If a man were in an ecstasy, as St Paul was, and knew that some sick man needed him to give him a bit of soup, I should think it far better if you would abandon your ecstasy out of love and show greater love in caring for the other in his need’. This is really interpreting Christ in a very down to earth way.
St Catherine of Siena, talking about Christ’s crucifixion and death, tells us: ‘The cross would not have been enough to hold him, nor the earth enough to keep the cross upright, nor the nails enough to keep him nailed fast to the cross unless love had held him there first!’
Holman Hunt’s beautiful picture of Christ standing at the door and knocking, asking us to allow ourselves to be loved, and to love in return, should help us to meditate and make our own the message of today’s gospel.
Sr. Lucina Montague OP