The great chain of love
Sixth Sunday of Easter
The readings from the Johannine literature bring out the centrality of love as the supreme attribute of God. The Second Reading, 1 John 4:7-10, states it baldly: “God is love.” Certainly, only love could have motivated the Father to send his Son to die for our sins.
“God is love.” This statement comes as the foundation to exhort believers to love one another. And when believers truly love another, this is the sign that they have been drawn into and live within the life of God (which is love).
Importantly, what is being talked about is not our love for God but God’s love for us. Any ability to love on the part of believers is simply the extension of a great “chain” of love ultimately stemming from the love of the Father. If our lives are caught up in this great chain, then we truly “know” God and know that we have been “begotten” by God.
The same “chain” of love is central to the exhortation we hear in the Gospel (Jn 15:9-17). What Jesus is trying to communicate to the disciples at the Last Supper is a sense of his own experience of being loved by the Father. He loves them as he has been loved by the Father to pass on to them the “joy” that he experiences, in that divine love. Such love is pure gift. Jesus is here insisting that the rationale of his whole life and mission is that human beings should share the joy of being loved by God.
The “commandments” that the disciples are urged to “keep” all reduce (in the Fourth Gospel) to the commandment to love the brothers and sisters. This commandment manifests love for God and neighbour. Keeping this essential commandment is what is meant by the exhortation: “Remain in my love.” Believers are to realise that they are caught up within a divine communion of love. They should “remain” within that communion by allowing divine love to flow through them to one another.
The second half of the Gospel brings out the sacrificial quality of God’s love. The love that Christ is passing on to the disciples involved laying down his life for them as his “friends.” Not only has he made the supreme gesture of friendship by laying down his life for them, but he has shared with them the intimacy he enjoys with the Father. They are “friends” not through their choice of him but because he has chosen them—all part of a vast divine design to communicate God’s love (= “bear fruit”) to the world.
Based on: Brendan Byrne “Homily notes: Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B, 6 May 2018” https://www.australiancatholics.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=55246#.WugsKkxuLY8