Every mature Christian comes to a point in life when he realizes that none of the things he really desires are within his own reach. And what’s more, he comes to understand that the things he can achieve are not the things he really wants, or at least, not the things that really matter.
The world, of course, the godless, materialistic, individualistic world of this age has no hope of understanding this odd predicament of the Christian because it has an unbridled confidence that, all by itself, reason can lead the world to the peace and prosperity humanity longs for. How wrong it is! What a fatal mistake!
Reason has pushed God to the peripheries, ‘retrenched him’, declaring – “Your services are no longer required. We’ll look after things from here. We have think-tanks and summits and experts; science, medicine and technology, and when it comes to peace we have the politicians … and lethal weapons.”
No wonder Christians feel like oddballs in this kind of world! And no wonder the more thoughtful of them are fearful about where things are going because echoing in their ears they have the words of the Master: Cut off from me you can do nothing. Remain in me.
Now in case you are tempted to believe all this is only a difference in our ‘way of looking’ at reality, and that it doesn’t really matter that some people believe in God and some people don’t, so long as we all ‘accept’ and ‘tolerate’ and ‘welcome’ one another – let me point out that it is more than a way of looking, it is also a ‘way of being’.
To say no to the words of Jesus has very real and serious consequences. We see these playing themselves out in the modern world. The more the peace initiatives of the politicians proliferate the more violent and out-of-control the world is becoming.
To say yes to the words of Jesus similarly has very real and serious consequences. To say yes to the person of Christ is to say yes to an entirely new way of life. It is to put all our eggs into a basket which is travelling in a direction entirely opposite to the direction travelled by the world.
Let’s just look more closely at the words of our Lord in today’s Gospel in which Jesus asks us to do three things and gives us three reasons for doing so:
- To remain in his love – because he has remained in his Father’s love
- To keep his commandments – because he has kept his Father’s commandments
- To love one another – because he has loved us.
The acid test, proclaimed throughout the Old and the New Testaments, for whether our love for God is real or not – is that we keep his commandments. One example from John 14:21 will be enough to demonstrate this truth: Jesus said: He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. To cry “Lord, Lord” will not be enough – we must walk the walk.
We live in a world in which some Christians, inexplicably, have reduced the Gospel to ‘so long as we are nice to one another and do good things.’ The trouble with this is that it sounds so plausible. Who could possibly be against being nice and doing good things? And all too often our heads are nodding in agreement before we have realized the shortcomings of what has been said.
If being nice and doing good, as important as they are, were sufficient for salvation why would we need Jesus, the sacraments, the Church?
No, sooner or later every serious and mature Christian comes to understand that all good is to be found not in us, not in our ‘niceness’ but in the goodness of the Savior who died for us and rose to life.
It is only by walking faithfully the path of love and obedience to God’s word which Jesus walked that we will find – in their perfection – all those things for which our hearts long – peace, joy, love, life – for all eternity.