I Jn 4: 7- 10; John 15: 9 – 17
The context for two of our readings today is Love.
From our life experience we know what love is. Many have experienced love in family life; demonstrated by a hug and a smile, a challenge or an affirmation, a word of correction or of encouragement. In our family, there were times when money was tight and decisions had to be made that involved sacrifice; can we keep the dental appointment or cancel for another time, or when new sandals were called for in the summer, can last year’s be worn, or have they become too small? This parental love of lavishness and sacrifice is referred to in Greek, as Storge, it is unconditional and fulfils what we read in 1 John “Beloved, let us love one another” (1 John 4: 7).
The love of friendship can be demonstrated through various stages of a developing relationship. A relationship moves through, acquaintance, to friendliness, to friendship and to intimacy. Friendships, continually move backwards and forwards, as they are never static. Friendship is expressed in deep listening, unconditional acceptance, affirmation, availability, forgiveness, understanding, trust and loyalty, and there are many ways to demonstrate friendship, hugs usually say, “I love you.” So too, exchanging gifts, such as flowers, sharing a meal, remembering special days, like birthdays and Christmas greetings.
Staying in a relationship can be challenging. Distance from one’s friend can be caused by geographical separation, disagreements, misunderstandings, even rejection. One person in the relationship can outgrow the other as they pursue new interests and larger horizons. Withdrawal may be necessary, if demands are made or expectations are too high. This is all part of being human. This love in friendship is, using the Greek term, Philia. Very often, but not necessarily, Philia love can become Eros, with strong physical attraction, deep desire to be with the other, is full of passion and romantic love.
In the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love….. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one had greater love that this, to lay down one’s life one’s friends. (John 15: 9 – 11).
The gospel of Saint John today speaks of God’s love for us. In the same way that the Father loves Jesus, so Jesus loves us. He laid down his life for us. This is sacrificial love, a choice to seek the good of the other person even if that involves sacrifice, the Greek, word here is Agape. This is the way of the Lord Jesus. Love is a choice, not merely a feeling.
How often do we consider that God’s love for us is the same love that the Divine Persons have among themselves? Somehow, we often perceive that our way of loving is different or even less. Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 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….This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” Notice Jesus says, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’
The Lord did not say, ‘Love one another as they love you or as you love yourself.’ Our standard for loving others is the love we experience from God. This love is not a felt presence of God but is faith in God’s loving presence with us. God is love, and awareness of this love, can be nurtured and deepened through silent prayer. Agape love, is the love that comes from God, is perfect, unconditional, and pure. Jesus Christ demonstrated this kind of divine love for his Father and to all humanity in the way he lived and died.
Today, is an opportunity to express gratitude for the many ways in which we have been loved, even if those persons, like our parents, have passed on: to appreciate our friends who love us unconditionally, in season and out of season; to reflect on our experiences of friendship, and find the pattern or movement from Storge, to Philia to Eros and Agape.
Have we forgiven ourselves or others who may have offended us. When this has occurred, perhaps be we can begin to love and to be loved as God loves us.
Sr. Fionnuala Quinn O.P.