We have all heard many people flippantly use words to mean something that they weren’t originally intended to mean. For example, why someone says, “Oh, I love that color,” or “I love that style of shoe,” that person is really saying, “I like that color,” and “I like those shoes.” The intellectual laziness suggests to us that this particular individual doesn’t really understand the meaning of the word love.
In today’s Gospel reading (Sixth Sunday of Easter: John 15:9-17) the word “love” is very much in focus. In fact, the actual meaning of love has to do with commitment, the commitment of one to another–even if it means giving one’s life for the other. The situation of parent-child relations strongly bears this out.
In the biblical sense, “love” is really something active. It is not simply an emotional expression, it is something you do to prove you have it. How does one get it? I suspect that today’s Gospel reading can tell us about active love. Let us look at it from a three fold perspective: Permanence; Totality; and Relationship.
First of all, Permanence. Jesus tells his disciples, “Remain in my love…” “Remain” means remain not for a moment, but forever. One does this by keeping the commandments–permanently.
Second, Totality. One makes sacrifices for the one who is loved. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the love expressed. Jesus suffered and died for us. What kind of sacrifices are we willing to make for others? Sacrifice means the same as commitment.
Third, Relationship. Jesus tells his friends, “I no longer call you servants, but I call you friends…” The Greek word used for “friends” is philoi, which means “beloved.” The nature of the relationship is changed. Jesus’ friends are his “beloved,” namely, special people.
If we take Jesus seriously when he tells us, “Love one another,” we know he is talking about an active love. We do this by keeping the commandments permanently; by spending quality time with others even though it may bring about suffering; and by remembering that we have become the philoi (friends=beloved) of Jesus through our Baptism. Permanence. Totality. Relationship. How’s that for being a modern day Christian “lover?”