sabato 5 maggio 2018

«Manete in dilectione mea»

Today’s gospel is the continuation of that of last Sunday. It is the second part of chapter 15 of John. Jesus has compared himself to a vine and his disciples to the branches of this vine, inviting them to remain in him, in order for them to bear fruit. Now Jesus stresses this point, saying, “Remain in my love” (Manete in dilectione mea). This passage is so inspiring that it would deserve a reflection on each verse. I leave it to your personal meditation.

Since one of main points of today’s liturgy — not only the gospel, but even the second reading, both by the same author — is love, and since nowadays all, inside and outside the Church, speak of love, but attaching to this word each time a different meaning, I think it could be useful to pause for a while to reflect briefly on this point. The first thing to say is that “love is of God.” Love is not just a human reality, but a divine one. Love — true love — does not originate in us; it comes from God. It is a gift. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.” Below, in the same letter, John will say, “He first loved us” (1Jn 4:19). But, before loving us, God — the Father — loves his Son. Everything in God speaks of love: God is a mystery of love, “God is love.”

God did not want to keep this mystery hidden; he wanted to reveal it, to make it known. How? “God sent his Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” He “sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” His Son, Jesus Christ, obeyed this commandment, and so he remained in the Father’s love. Jesus did not accomplish his mission grumbling, but sharing in his Father’s love. He also loved us, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” He did not suffer death reluctantly; he laid down his life for us. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” For him, we were neither strangers nor servants; he considered us as friends, “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” He wanted to share his secrets with us.

Now he tells us to remain in his love. How can we do this? “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” So, there is a kind of chain: the love of the Father is in his Son, and the Son remains in his Father’s love; the love of the Son is in us, and we have to remain in his love. What commandments should we keep? “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” If we want to remain in Christ’s love, we have to love each other. Jesus adds how we have to love our brothers: “as I love you.” Which means: not with your human love, but with my divine love; that love which drove me to lay down my life for you. Jesus “laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1Jn 3:16). The rule “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” goes not only for Jesus, but for us, too. It is interesting to notice that, while in the old testament the measure of our love for others was ourselves (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”), now the measure of our love for the brothers is Jesus himself (“Love one another as I love you”).

Is it not too much what Jesus is asking of us? He wants us to lay down our lives for others; he expects something superhuman of us. Yes, what Jesus demands is beyond our human strength; but, with his commandment, he gives us his strength, his love, so that we may keep his commandment. That is why he says, “Remain in my love.” Only on this condition it is possible for us to love as he loved us. We are requested to love our brothers not humanly, but divinely, with the same love with which the Father loves the Son and the Son loves us.