In the nine verses that make up today’s Gospel passage there are two words that get repeated over and over: love and command, or commandment. (John 15:9-17)
So what do these two words have to do with each other? The mainstream culture would say not that much. Love should be free; free from obligations and constraints, free to do whatever it feels like. A command, which implies obedience, is the opposite of freedom, and only ties love down.
But think about your closest relationships, be they with a spouse, a friend, or a relative. Those relationships require love and obedience. Maybe we don’t use words like command and obey when we are referring to our earthly relationships, but they are still present. If a friend shares a struggle with me in confidence, asking me not to mention it to anyone else, and I truly love my friend, I will respect her request. I will be obedient.
When I ask my husband over and over again to please put the cap back on the toothpaste, and he never remembers to do it, it hurts me. Conversely, when I notice the cap on the toothpaste every morning, I see it as a sign that he is listening to the things I am saying. I see it as an expression of his love for me.
Jesus is the perfect example of love, and of obedience. He obeyed the Father in all things, even in going to the cross. And He loves us unconditionally, to the point of laying down His life for us. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13) And He asks us to follow His example.
It sounds like a tall order. But don’t be afraid, the commands of the Lord are never meant to crush us. They will actually set us free to live the fullest life possible. Jesus even says, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” (John 15:11)
There is joy to be found in following Christ. Read this Gospel passage once more, paying attention to all the places the words love and command come up. Then go, do as He commands and “love one another,” and find joy in remaining in His love.
Ponder His words today and think of how you can live them out in your day-to-day.
Anna Coyne is a Saint Paul native, wife, mother, and convert to the Catholic faith. When not chasing after her two young children you can probably find her playing the piano, knitting, tripping over wooden train sets, or writing. Find out more about her here.