Pastoral Reflections

6th Sunday of Easter – 2017

Jesus says to us today, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We could say that is a very powerful statement. Does this mean that the converse is true, namely, every time we sin, we do not love Jesus? Absolutely! 

Although we may profess to love Jesus, every time we engage in sinful activity, we direct our love to something or to someone other than Jesus. If we genuinely love Jesus, more than anything else, we will keep ourselves free from sin for his sake.

Some people are fond of saying, after all we are merely sinners, so we are prone to sin. St. Paul calls all those baptized in Christ, ‘saints’, so our aspiration must always be toward perfection and not the mere acceptance of imperfection. If we love Jesus we will strive to give ourselves totally to him. When we sin we are giving ourselves to something other than Jesus or to somebody other than Jesus.
 
When we love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength we will not want to put anything, no matter how small, between ourselves and him. Again the words of Jesus in our Gospel are, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Sometimes we hear people make statements like, “Jesus understands that I am only human. He will forgive me.” 

Jesus is indeed forgiving and we ought never to doubt his mercy. Even Judas would have been forgiven if he had sought forgiveness from God. His sin was one of despair. Despair is the one unforgivable sin in life. That having been said, we ought never to presume Jesus’ mercy, and this is what we do when we willfully and knowingly sin. If we love Jesus more than anything, we will put Jesus before whatever it is that is tempting us and we will try to root that sin out of our lives totally and completely.

Loving Jesus therefore is not just something emotional. Loving Jesus means thoughtfully changing our lives.  It is reforming our lives, working on our personalities and characters, overcoming sinful habits, stretching ourselves to love as Jesus loved.  Loving Jesus means thinking about ourselves and others, as Jesus did and does. 

Where does your information about yourself, others and the world come from?  If it comes solely from the materialistic western culture, which does not understand the difference between freedom to sin and the freedom to do what is right, our minds may be contaminated by false images of ourselves, others and the world. But if we truly want to love Jesus we will fill our minds with his thoughts and his way of looking at the world. 

We can fill our minds with Jesus’ thoughts by reading the Bible, reading spiritual books and praying as much as possible every day. If we fill our minds with the filth of the world how can we love Jesus?  And it would be impossible to keep his commandments.  Let us fill our minds with the thoughts of Jesus so that we may love him and keep his commandments.  Again the words of Jesus are, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) 

We cannot have both a pure love of Jesus and sin in our lives at the same time. As Jesus said in Matt 6:24, we cannot be a slave of two masters. Truly loving Jesus leads us to give up whatever in our lives draws us away from Jesus. Truly loving Jesus leads us to making changes in the way we live and think and act. Sinning is putting Jesus in second place but when we love Jesus we put Jesus in first place, enabling us to keep his commandments. 

How can we be sure that we love Jesus?  We begin by examining the way we live our daily lives. Are we living as Jesus would have us live? Are we living consistently with the scripture and the Church’s traditional teachings? If we are able to genuinely say ‘yes’, then we can conclude that we indeed love Jesus. But if we say we love Jesus and yet continue to think or act in a way that is contrary to Jesus’ life and message, then clearly we have not put Jesus in first place. When we do not keep Jesus’ commandments, we do not truly love Jesus. There is no rocket science about this, folks!  And if we truly love Jesus and do not understand the Church’s teaching on an issue, our love of Jesus will prompt us to probe and learn until we understand why the Church teaches what she does so that we will not cause pain to Jesus by not keeping his commandments. So for some, loving Jesus may mean humbly walking the way of trust until clearer understanding comes. When we keep the commandments not only do we love Jesus but we also have the love of God within ourselves and toward others. 

At the end of our Gospel excerpt today we heard, ‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)  So loving Jesus and keeping his commandments fills us with the love of Jesus and the love of the Father, and Jesus comes and makes his abode within us. When we love Jesus and keep his commandments we have Jesus in our hearts. 

Sin kills the life of God in us, serious sin kills the life of God in us in a serious way. Whenever the life of God is lacking in us it is not God’s fault, it is ours. It is not God who sends us to Purgatory, we send ourselves to Purgatory, because if our soul is impure, we would be blinded by the pure light of God’s love and we need to purify ourselves to be able to enjoy the vision of God in heaven. God does not send anyone to hell, anyone who goes to hell does so because they have chosen to totally reject the love of God. But, in the words of our Gospel today, anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)

How much does Jesus love us?  This much, he stretched out his arms on the cross and died for us. Let us never be afraid to turn to Jesus for mercy after sinning, he is always waiting to forgive us and restore us again. Let us resolve during this Mass to love Jesus by keeping his commandments so that the love of Jesus and the Father and the Spirit may be in our hearts and we may have Jesus in our hearts.

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