Background on the Gospel Reading – John 15:9-17 Jesus commands his disciples to love one another.
Today’s Gospel follows immediately after the Gospel proclaimed last week, in which Jesus taught that he was the vine and that his disciples were the branches. In the example of the vine and the branches, we learned that our union with Jesus will lead to fruitful service. Today’s reading extends this teaching to describe the kind of service that Christians are called upon to offer to others.
When John wrote this Gospel, his community was influenced by a set of religious beliefs called Gnosticism. It appears that one of John’s intentions was to distinguish Christian belief from the beliefs held by the Gnostics. Evidence of this can be found in today’s Gospel.
One of the tenets of Gnostic teaching was the importance of knowledge, or gnosis, as the determining aspect of faith. We read today’s Gospel as a response to this teaching. In John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm that he is known by the Father and that his disciples will know the Father by knowing Jesus. In this passage, however, Jesus reminds his disciples that this knowledge is to be expressed in love. Those who know Jesus well—and Jesus says that his disciples do know him—will love one another. Knowledge leads to love, which leads to action. John reminds his community that Jesus taught that love is the sign of a true disciple and, thus, a true Christian. Even more, a true disciple shows a particular kind of love, sacrificial love.
In the Greek, there are two words for love that are used in this passage. The first is agape. The second is philia. The first word is most often used to describe love for other persons and for God. It is understood as the highest and most perfect kind of love. The second word is used to describe the affection of friendship. In this context, John appears to use these words as synonyms. The root of the Greek word for friend comes from this second term for love, philia. By using this word, Jesus transforms the terms of his relationship with his disciples and redefines for them their relationship with God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, faith in God made one a servant of God.
Here Jesus teaches that his relationship to his disciples is based on friendship, not servitude.
Another aspect of Gnostic belief taught that a believer was an elect person, chosen and set apart from the world. John reminds his community that Jesus also taught that a disciple is one who had been chosen—one who had been chosen by Jesus. To be chosen by Jesus, however, is not to be set apart from the world. Instead, to be chosen by Jesus is to be sent to serve the world as he did. The disciples of Jesus were chosen and were sent into the world to bear fruit by serving others, by sacrificing for others, in love.
This reading, like last week’s, is part of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse. In the context of John’s Gospel, these words are spoken before Jesus’ Crucifixion. We read his instruction to the disciples in light of his death and Resurrection. We know that Jesus himself gives us the greatest example of the kind of love and service that he teaches to his disciples. He has, in fact, laid down his life for his friends, for his disciples, and for us. Through his death and Resurrection, we have received the grace to love others as Jesus has commanded.
In this week’s Encountering the Word video for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Jeff Cavins shows us how this Sunday’s readings teach us to imitate God in the way he loves, because only in this way can we become Christ’s disciples.
Friends, with these fabulous readings for the sixth Sunday of Easter, we discover an embarrassment of riches through the exploration of God’s care and concern for us. In this sermon, I delve into these marvelous texts and explicate three fundamental truths:
- God is love
- God has loved us first
- We are invited to participate in God’s love through our own love and self-gift to him and one another
Gospel: John 15:9-17 You are my friends if you do what I command you
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love. 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. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me: no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.’
Lectio Reflection – Sixth Sunday of Easter – John 15:9-17
John 15:9-17 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 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. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 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. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
We invite you to share with us your prayerful reflection on The Sunday Gospel readings with Bishop David Walker, Fr John Frauenfelder and Virginia Ryan These Lectio Reflections provide the framework to develop our faith life. Our faith is in Jesus who comes to us as the human face of God. Faith life is human life lived in a deeply personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. Jesus is our friend and lover, the most significant point of reference in our life. We need to lead our life conscientiously and intentionally so that all that we do is done within the context of our love relationship with Jesus. Lectio Divina is one of the ways we can develop this.