Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love 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 joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

– John 15:9-17

Blessed be he who loveth Thee, and his friend in Thee, and his enemy for Thy sake. For he alone loses none dear to him to whom all are dear in Him who cannot be lost. 

St. Augustine

The Commitment of Words

The words we speak are important. Although we often use words superficially, they are always a commitment. What we tell ourselves represents a space, sets boundaries, and is the ground on which we verify ourselves. Words wait to be made true by actions. A word left unfulfilled is a word betrayed, a disappointment, a failed commitment, indicating that we were not attentive enough or perhaps even suggesting that we did not love.

Criteria for Verification

I think the term we translate as ‘commandment’ should be understood as words that commit us, words that make us understand the boundaries of our relationship with God. They are the criteria for verifying whether we are still in that relationship or have departed from it. Listening to those words, that is, living them, is indeed the source of joy.

Jesus invites us to live those words, not because we are slaves to His orders, but because only by living those words do we find our fullness; we realize ourselves. It’s true that we are often distracted by other words and promises, but then we realize how we have been deceived and disappointed. We find ourselves empty and sad. That’s why we must pay attention and discern the words we listen to.

The Measure of Love

The word that is most important for Jesus doesn’t concern Him, but the relationships between us, it concerns the call to love one another. Fortunately, Jesus adds a ‘how’: “Love one another as I have loved you.” That ‘how’ is fundamental because otherwise, we would risk measuring our love for each other. If the criterion of love were how the other person loved me, I could play down or tend more towards competition. The criterion proposed by Jesus is external, it’s Himself, the criterion is His way of loving.

It doesn’t matter how the other person is loving me, whether much or little, what matters is to remember how Jesus loved me, that is, without measure: “He loved them to the end.” Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. Jesus is the one who, to awaken His friend, is willing to be killed. It’s certainly a new commandment, precisely because we are accustomed to measuring love, we are accustomed to preserving ourselves and not losing. But in Jesus’ words, this logic is completely destroyed.

We can try to love like this only if we ourselves have experienced the love of Jesus. If we haven’t lived it, we can’t even understand it, and we will have no experience or criteria to love as He loved us; we’ll continue to be merchants or accountants of love, tallying up to try not to lose.

Being Friends

It’s not just about being in a relationship with Jesus, but being there as friends and not as servants. This difference that Jesus Himself indicates to us is fundamental to becoming aware of how we are living our relationship with Him and all the other significant relationships in our lives.

A friend is someone who is in a relationship gratuitously. “Friendship,” says C.S. Lewis, “is born when this question blossoms: how you too? I thought I was the only one!” A friend doesn’t have shifts of work and doesn’t look at the clock to see if it’s finally time to leave. A friend rejoices to see the friend and doesn’t worry about the time that the other will now take away. A friend doesn’t judge but is capable of seeing into the abyss of our hearts and remaining close nonetheless. A friend isn’t there for self-interest and doesn’t flee when defeat looms.

Living as Servants

On the contrary, being in a relationship as a servant means being animated by feelings of fear and impatience. The servant is afraid of being dismissed and punished. The servant experiences the presence of the master as a burden, can’t wait to leave, does what needs to be done hoping to finish soon. The servant settles and perhaps stays in the relationship because he fears not finding something better and is convinced that this is the only way he deserves to be loved. The servant convinces himself that there’s nothing wrong with having a master. The servant is one who doesn’t have much self-esteem and allows himself to be used as if others were entitled to it. Sometimes, unfortunately, we can live our relationship with God as servants as well.

What We Proclaim

Instead, the Lord has chosen us. He didn’t settle for us. He chose us out of love, because He wants to give us the fullness of a healthy relationship. This experience is fundamental for proclaiming the Gospel. If we haven’t realized that we are loved by God in this way, we won’t have much to proclaim. Bringing the Gospel means witnessing with our lives that it’s possible to love like this, gratuitously, without tallying up.

Questions For Reflection

Do I feel like I’m living my relationships as a friend or as a servant?

How Do I Love Others?

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