In the previous passage we reflected on the dwelling places, the abode of God. It would appear that today’s gospel is furthering the concept. Jesus has promised to send the Spirit of Truth, who will remain in the disciples. He also assures them that he is in God, and that they are in him and he in them.
So it becomes apparent that the many rooms in God’s abode are not individual apartments, where we might enter and close the door. Rather, they are designed for communal living. The inhabitants are God the life-giver, Jesus, the Advocate or Spirit and the believers. We are not talking here about a foursome, “the Trinity and me”. Jesus’ words are addressed to the disciples, the believers, in the plural. We have misinterpreted the words if we only apply them on an individual basis. We are talking about a divine embrace inclusive of God and believers, a great embrace of togetherness brought about by love.
Belonging to this divine communion comes about by love. Jesus says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Then he will send another advocate, the Spirit of Truth to be with those who have this love. We are also reminded in the following chapter that we remain in Jesus love if we keep his commandments.
What are these commandments about which Jesus is talking? In John 13:34 we read, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” In chapter 15:12 we are reminded that Jesus’ commandment is to love one another, with a follow-up reminder that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for someone else.
This command is not taxing on the memory, since there is just one thing to do – love. Oh, but how taxing it is on the mind, the heart, the will. The concept of love has been so weakened that it is difficult to understand its strength. It has been so veiled with good feeling, that it is difficult to realize it demands the hard and the tough choices. Some modern dictionaries don’t even define love with this understanding any more. Though, as I plowed through Webster’s definitions, I finally found one that described love as “unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”
Love is the firefighter who risks being burnt to death, in order to rescue another. Love is the mother who puts her desires and ambitions on hold for the welfare of her child. Love is the deep sea diver who plunges into the ocean over and over again to recover the body of somebody else’s teenage child. Love is the grandparents who postpone retirement because their grandchildren need parents. Love is the spouse who keeps vigil with the loved one through illness to the moment of death and beyond.
Love is the service that is given especially when it is demanding and even perhaps repulsive to do so. It is the washing of the feet, the touching of the leper, the dying on the cross. Jesus asks nothing that he did not also do. When we can step up to the plate with this kind of love, then we have a place in the divine abode, in the community of God.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP