Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Commentary for the 6th Week of Easter by Sr. Susan Marie Lindstrom, OSB

Last Sunday, Jesus gave us a goal toward which to strive:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me will bear much fruit.”

This Sunday, Jesus reveals the way to reach that goal:
“Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in my love.”

It is easy to see a commandment or rule as confining, burdensome or restrictive. It is easy to observe them as external guides for behavior, and to feel guilty when we fail to obey them. Jesus, however, tells his listeners that he gives them commandments as a sign of friendship. The Jewish Scriptures often speak of delighting in God’s law. For them, to keep the commandments was to keep the covenant, to be the people God had called them to be. For us, to keep God’s commandments is to be obedient, to truly listen with the ear of our heart. Loving obedience is the hallmark of a true Christian because it was the example set by Christ Himself.
“I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

It seems odd that Jesus, knowing that He was on the verge of His passion and death, would speak of joy. Obviously, this is not the joy that comes from material possessions, or from having a ministry or community that one enjoys. It is not a joy that is based on what’s in it for the individual. Jesus’ joy comes from walking with God, listening to God, responding to God’s call, putting God’s will before His own. The joy of which Jesus speaks comes from self-sacrificing love. Jesus’ joy comes from laying down His life for His friends.

Jesus gives a simple yet challenging command:

“Love one another as I have loved you.”

THIS is how we are called to lay down our lives… to put ourselves aside and to put the needs of others first… to let go of our own agendas and tend to those who are poor, marginalized, lonely, ill.

Self-serving actions and intentions lead us away from God. It is when we are sensitive to the needs of others, when we respond with no thought of ourselves, no expectation of recognition or reward that we are carrying out the commandment of love that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel.
Each day, as we live, pray and work together, we are presented with opportunities to remain in God’s love through our actions, reactions and interactions. When we are patient with those we find bothersome, when we respond to them gently rather than brushing them off or being abrupt, we are laying down our lives. When we are not merely tolerant but accepting of each other’s weaknesses in character, mind or body, appreciating the uniqueness of each sister, we are laying down our lives. When we spend time really listening to each other and being present to each other, even when it means that we will not complete our to do list for the day, we are laying down our lives. When we graciously and cheerfully cover jobs and assignments for one another, we are laying down our lives.

Benedict knew that the place where we would work out our salvation was within the monastery itself. He knew that his monks would know true joy as they studied daily in the school of the Lord’s service. He challenged his monks and challenges us to live by God’s commandments every day, to find in them freedom and life.

Do we trust enough to believe Jesus when He says that true happiness can be found in self-sacrifice? Then, let us run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.

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