The gospel passage on the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year A underscores, among others, the link between love and obedience and the presence of God in the person who loves.
Love is the very motive for and the essence of the Father’s sending of Jesus into our midst. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It is also the fundamental message of Jesus’ life and ministry. In Luke 10:17, Mark 12: 30-31 and Matthew 22:37-39, we find Jesus summarizing all the commandments into the love of God and neighbors. John underlines the very nature of God as love. He writes, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
But the love that Jesus commands is a demanding love. It is a sacrificial and sacrificing love, one that is patterned after the very love of Jesus himself. Jesus says that only those who follow His example and obey His commands can be said to genuinely love. Thus, we find here that love is obedient.
In Christian life, obedience is not a prerequisite for love; it is rather the result or the consequence of love. If we, as disciples, truly love Jesus, then we obey Him and His commands and follow His example. Jesus Himself has shown us this obedient love. Because He loved the Father and He loved each and every one of us, He was obedient to His Father even to the point of laying down His life on the cross for our salvation.
Jesus made a promise to those who obey His commands out of love for Him. He will ask the Father to send to them the Spirit of truth, Who will not leave them despite Jesus’ return to the Father (ascension) but will remain with them until the end of time. It is this Spirit of truth that will make the disciples witnesses of love in the world.
If love is God’s very nature, therefore anybody who loves, especially after the example of Jesus, manifests God’s presence in the world. As one line from a Les Miserables song states, “To love somebody is to see the face of God.” We dare to add, “Anybody who loves reflects the face of God.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says that Jesus has revealed the face of God. He writes in his Jesus of Nazareth, Volume 1: “The great question that will be with us throughout this entire book: But what has Jesus really brought, then, if He has not brought world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has He brought? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God! He has brought God, and now we know His face, now we can call upon Him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God, the truth about where we are going and where we come from: faith, hope, and love.”
Jesus, as the human face of God, is the face of a compassionate, unconditional, boundless and obedient love. He is the Incarnate love of the Father.
The saints, in a powerful and special way, reveal the loving and living presence of God in our midst. Having just visited and prayed before the incorrupt body of the Franciscan Capuchin Stigmatist St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina at the San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy as part of our recent pilgrimage itinerary (May 3-19, 2014), I am reminded of what Pope Paul VI remarked of St. Padre Pio. Pope Paul VI said: “See what fame he had! What a world-wide clientele gathered around him! But why? Was it because he was a philosopher, because he was a learned man, because he was a man of means? It was because he said Mass humbly, because he confessed from morning to evening, and because, difficult as it is to say, he was a marked representative of the Lord” (Pope Paul VI, February 30, 1971).
Jesus, the disciples and the saints have revealed and continue to reveal the loving face of God. What about us?
More about Fr. Robert and his reflections.