In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” I have to confess that I struggle with these words from Jesus. What I struggle with is the seeming implication that the Father’s love for us comes after the demonstration of our love for Jesus. Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that it is God who loves us first. In our reading from Acts, where the people of Lystra mistake Paul and Barnabas for Greek gods because of the healing of a man lame from birth, Paul tries to explain to them that it is God who has bestowed blessings upon them, even though they did not believe in Him.
So I don’t believe that our love of Jesus affects whether God loves us or not. God loves us no matter what. What makes sense to me is that when we observe Jesus’ commandments, in loving God and loving our neighbor, Jesus reveals more and more of Himself to us. The more we strive to love as Jesus loves, the more Jesus reveals to us how much He loves us and how much He loves the world, which better enables us to follow Him. Instead of a vicious cycle spiraling downward, perhaps we could call it a virtuous cycle spiraling upward.
After Jesus has spoken the words mentioned above, Judas, not the Iscariot, asks Him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Judas is confused because Jesus seems to be speaking about a personal revelation rather than a universal one. Jesus responds by saying similar words to the ones He has just spoken. Perhaps the answer is that Jesus reveals Himself to the world through us. The more God is all in all for us, the more we reveal His love in Jesus Christ, and the more the world hears the Good News. May we follow Jesus’ commandments, so that His love is revealed to all.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.