Homily: John 8:21-30

The Cross of Christ

THE ONE WHO HAS MY COMMANDMENTS AND KEEPS THEM IS THE ONE WHO LOVES ME (John 14: 21). Jesus made it his concern to teach a new form of love. This text is one of the crucial norms for evaluating our relation to him. Americans certainly need to give a good deal of attention to assimilating this teaching. In our personal relations especially we have an automatic resistance to being told what to do when the message comes in the form of orders. We associate our more personal and intimate, relationships with free choice and the spontaneous affection that arises from mutual attraction and mutual interest. To define love in terms of submission to orders and the carrying out of another's will strike many as strange and misplaced.

Our Lord, though, saw matters very differently. We observe how free he was in his speech and relationships. He reacted strongly and spontaneously to different kinds of people. He reacted with ready affection to the rich young man who had always obeyed the commandments; he responded warmly and immediately to Zachaeus, inviting himself to his home for dinner out of friendly fellow feeling. Yet, when it came to the most solemn of all occasions, the night before he died, he defined love in terms of obedience to commandments. More, he maintained that his whole life and teaching was precisely the constant response of obedience to his Father's will.

As we gain experience in life and in human relationships of a more personal kind, and even those associated with the various professional and business contacts we come to appreciate more readily the wisdom of Jesus' teaching on obedience as the proof of love. Anyone who claims to love a friend or parent of associate will certainly wish to carry out in practice what please the other. He will do so often spontaneously and with pleasure enhanced precisely because it gives satisfaction to the beloved. He will even do so when what is required of him is a source of trouble, even of pain when he knows it is important enough to the one he is attached to. Experience reveals surprising and hidden potentialities in the act of obedience. What is more affecting than the implicit trust and regard manifested by the desire to please? It is made all the more welcome when it costs the other a good deal to carry out some preference or decision that we make. Affection grows deeper when obedience is given from the heart and with the intent to cooperate so as to give assistance or contribute to the happiness and well being of the one obeyed. To learn to obey from the heart, in fact, is to learn to love and to transmit love.

Jesus taught this lesson by example as well as by word. He showed it remained the norm he followed even when it meant humiliation, pain and death. May we receive the strength we need to carry out this lesson in our life together and in all our relationships. Surely this grace is being offered to us here as we take these words into our heart to make them our own and as we unite our self to our Lord in the Eucharist we are about to offer at this altar.