In our Gospel reading, Jesus tells His disciples to “remain” in His love. There are other translations that use the word “abide,” and I favor that word because it implies for me resting in the assurance of God’s unconditional love. Part of remaining, or abiding in Jesus’ love is to share that love with others: “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love.” We keep Jesus’ love in our hearts by responding to it in loving others.
We see this in our first reading from Acts, where the early Christians seek to resolve a conflict brought about by differing opinions on how the Gentiles should be brought into the Christian community, which we heard in yesterday’s reading. We see in the resolution of this conflict that there was no violence or force used upon others. Instead, the disciples who met were intent on discerning where the Holy Spirit was leading them. And after much debate and testimony from Paul and Barnabas and Peter and James, they discern not to require of the Gentiles that they be circumcised, i.e., become like Jews first. This is done in love, as Jesus commanded.
Another way to put this is to look at what Jesus says at the end of our Gospel reading: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.” Real, deep, joy is founded on the overwhelming love God has for us in Jesus Christ. But we can’t just hold onto that love for ourselves. The only way that joy is complete for us is to share it with others, so that they might experience the joy of knowing beyond any doubt how much God loves them.
Without any hesitation, we can abide; we can rest assured of the extent to which Jesus loves us. In that “blessed assurance,” may we extend that love and the joy it brings to others.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.