The Gospel for this Sunday picks up where it ended last Sunday. Jesus continues the parable of the True Vine. We hear clearly this Sunday something that perhaps we have always known, deep within our hearts:
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
We are loved.
Jesus loves us in the same way that God loves him. The invitation to abide is an invitation into the Love of God.
What is the Love of God?
God is the Lover because God loves.
Jesus is the Beloved because God loves him.
What--or who--is the Love?
At Jesus' Baptism we see God's Love poured out on Jesus, "like a dove." We know this is the Holy Spirit. Lover, Love, Beloved--God is a community of Love.
Why does the Holy Spirit appear like a dove? Doves are a symbol of peace. We are reminded again that the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of peace.
Life in the True Vine is a life lived in the Love of God. Jesus opens up his relationship with God to include us.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
The Kingdom of God, in its fullness, when it is complete, is a community of joy.
Jesus loves us in the same way that God loves him. He loves us with the Holy Spirit who is poured out on us in Baptism. It is God's will that we grow in this Love. Jesus says,
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
What does this mean? How can we love each other with the Holy Spirit? Jesus tells this parable to the disciples at the Last Supper when he gives his body in the bread, his blood in the wine. He tells it before he gives his whole life on the cross. He says,
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
This is how Jesus loves--with his whole self, with everything he has. Jesus loves by offering himself as gift.
How is it possible for someone to lay down their life? How is it possible for someone to offer themselves as gift to another?
Jesus does this through the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit's help, so do we.
Do we know what laying down our lives will look like? Not yet. Jesus makes it clear that this is not something that we decide on our own:
You did not choose me but I chose you.
We have been chosen for this. We have been chosen to love with the gift of our whole selves. This will look different for each one of us, because we are each different people.
Our choice is whether we will remain. In choosing to grow in the life of the True Vine, in choosing to follow Jesus' commandment of love, we become Jesus' friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
Friends share everything. Jesus shares his life with us, and we share our life with him. Jesus honours this relationship--he dignifies us--by giving us a share in the work of building the Kingdom of God. He says,
I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last
We know this fruit. It is the fruit of the life of the True Vine. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
This is the fruit of the Kingdom of God. We have been chosen for this work, and the Holy Spirit shows each one of us how we are to live in order to produce the fruit of the Kingdom.
This is a big work. How can we do this? Won't we need help? We have to remember that we are not alone. We are not single flowers; we are branches of the True Vine. We live in the community of God's Love. Growing within this community, Jesus says,
the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
We are loved.
We are chosen.
We are his friends.
We are not alone.
Together we build the Kingdom of God with the gift of our lives. Together we,
love one another.