In the immediate context before our current gospel reading Jesus announces that he is the vine and we are the branches. (John 1-11) He tells his disciples to remain always connected to him as branches that share the life force of the vine stock. He invites us to "abide in my love." Whoever remains in him bears much fruit. As is characteristic of the Fourth Gospel what is emphasized is an individual, personal relationship of the disciple to Jesus as the source of his/her life. The perspective widens with verse 12 with the new commandment, "love one another as I have loved you." Now we see that it is not just Jesus and me. We are invited to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters as he did. But almost immediately we are called back to that personal relationship of being friends of Jesus. He has revealed to us everything he learned from is father. He has shared his mind with us, and has opened his heart to us. He has personally chosen us and then commissioned us to go out and bear fruit. We are his ambassadors. The fruit we are commanded to do goes out into the community as the passage comes to a close. "Love one another."
The Fourth Gospel does not give us those practical guides to loving as we find in Paul’s hymn to agape in 1 Cor 13. We are on a deeper level. John’s basic idea of love is the sharing of life together in concern and understanding. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share their life together in love. This is what every married couple is called to. This is what every community of believers is to strive for.
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California.