Think of the personalities in your friend group. Who’s the de facto “leader” of your group? Which person comes up with the plans, gets everyone else excited, keeps everyone connected? Every group has that person. Maybe it’s you.
Jesus’ friend group included a lot of personalities too – the Rock, the Boanerges (“Sons of Thunder”), the doubting one, the young and Beloved disciple. But it wasn’t Jesus’ personality that kept them all connected, it was WHO HE IS, and WHAT HE DID for them. He is God and he gave everything for them. Wow. The really awesome thing is that WE CAN BE IN THAT FRIEND GROUP TOO!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is reiterating the most important lesson for his friends: they must love one another AS HE LOVED THEM. In case they might miss the point, he tells them exactly how he loves them; his love is so great that he will LAY DOWN HIS VERY LIFE for his friends. He chose them, he told them everything he heard from his Father, and now he will die for them.
What are they (and we) supposed to do in response? Jesus’ friends are called to love one another in the same way and GO AND BEAR FRUIT, to the glory of the Father. A few verses earlier (Jn 15:1-8), he has explained that without him, we can do nothing, and so we are like branches which must remain firmly connected to Jesus, the Vine, in order to bear any fruit.
These words, spoken just before Jesus actually gave himself over to death for love of his friends and love of his Father, must have resonated deeply with the disciples. The Church built up around this genuine self-giving love and Communion with the very Person of Jesus Christ, defining his followers as those who loved one another and their enemies! This was a profound, sacrificial love, far deeper than “being nice” or any kind of natural human compassion – this is love with an eternal perspective, love that wants what is spiritually, eternally, best for the other. This is love that can only come through us from the One Who IS Love, and only if we remain firmly connected to the Vine, and allow ourselves to be pruned by the Vine Grower. Jesus taught us that we can call God “Father,” because we are IN the Son.
Anything we think we can do without Jesus is just self-assertion, self-insertion, self-sufficiency. None of these keep us connected to the Vine so that we can love truly and bear lasting fruit. Today, let’s consider how well our attitude toward God mirrors Jesus’ attitude toward the Father, and how deeply we love the people around us. Enough to lay down our very lives? This is the profound love that can be ours IN CHRIST, if we set our own agendas aside. This is the glorious grace that is ours through baptism. This is the profound commandment Jesus gives his friends.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.
Feature Image Credit: Kimson Doan, https://unsplash.com/photos/AZMmUy2qL6A