John 15: 9 -17
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Reflection, by Fr Aldo, sx
As I read the Gospel of John an imaginary Bible-sharing group comes to my mind. In my imagination I see Ate Linda, a straight forward woman, saying: “It seems that John likes to complicate things; why doesn’t he go straight to the point?” But Tita Fe who owns a company and deals with many employees likes the way Jesus talks with his disciples in the Gospel of today: “If you want to be my friends, do what I tell you.” In the factory, Tita Fe is accustomed to speak in this way to the workers, as she likes always to be the boss, thus she identifies herself easily with that saying of Jesus.
Then, Ate Mila who is a domestic helper makes an interesting observation: “I beg your pardon because I hardly finished high school and I never studied theology, but I noticed that Jesus says that we are his friends, not his servants; even though I think that in another Gospel he says that he did not come to be served, but to serve; and the one that serves is a servant.
Ate Mila is unaware of and does not care actually about the difference between the Gospel of John and the synoptics, yet she gets the point perfectly. In a labor relation the one who serves serve because he or she is commanded to do so, but in the Church people serve not because of commands but because they love.
Then Kuya Boni, a garbage collector said: “Look, just out of curiosity I was counting how many times the word ‘love’ is written in this passage and if I am not wrong it appears nine times. Perhaps the Gospel wants to teach us something with the verb ‘to love.’ May be for someone who experiences in a intense and profound way the love of God manifested in Jesus of Nazareth, it is impossible not to continue talking about this experience over and over again. That is the reason why the Gospel keeps on mentioning the beloved disciple. Not that Jesus loved one more than the others, but one of the disciples eventually understood and experienced the love which the Father has shown to the people, not exclusive for one, but for all.
In the meantime, Carla whose mind seems to be in the clouds because she is in love with one of the parish catechists made a remarkable intervention: “So we can say that Jesus is the explicit love of God, right?” That is correct! Explicit is something that can’t be hidden, like Carla’s face when she sees her boyfriend. The one who is in love cannot disguise the joy of seeing the beloved. The discovery that God loves us so passionately makes us wake up from alienation, it gives a new meaning to life, new horizons open wide, brings us a real sense of happiness.
It is amazing that the catechist, even though he is serious person, is not interested in Carla. One day a Carla’s friend told her the truth that the boy actually doesn’t love her, and for her surprise Carla’s reply was: “All that I want is to love him, I do not mind if he loves me or not, that doesn’t matter.”
Ok. Where is this story leading us? This is the point: God loves us always and it doesn’t matter if we love him in return or not, God will not change his mind. After all who would be able to love in the same way as God does. But there is something we can do so that God may have a minimum sense of being corresponded: that we love one another as he loves us. “As” here does not mean a perfect love like God’s. But it refers to gratuity and unconditionallity. If we only could love selflessly it would be already more than enough.
This is what happened to John: he discovered and experienced this love of God and nobody could ever stop him from shouting repeatedly to all directions of the world that God is Love.