6th Sunday of Easter, Year A
John 14: 15-21
The Illuminating Context of Love
The other night we watched a movie with subtitles. I could read most of them, but I struggled mightily when the white type fell across a light-colored background. As the movie went on, however, it became much easier to guess the missing text. By then, I had a contextual basis to figure out what I didn’t know for certain. Without that context, I was in the dark.
I’m used to not being able to distinguish details other people can—my eyes have never been great and I wear thick lenses. Frequently I think about how lucky I am that I live in a time when my eyes can be almost corrected, even if that correction isn’t perfect. In Jesus’s day, I would have been a beggar on the street, if I were that fortunate.
Jesus came to heal both physical and spiritual blindness. He came to open our eyes to the God who is active in our lives. In order for us to see the thread of God that runs through everything, we have to understand that God is in everything. As a poor carpenter born into a minority culture, Jesus demonstrated God’s willingness to be everywhere. Jesus came to be our context, to keep us out of the dark.
What allowed God to come to the far corners of the earth? Love. His great love for His creation. Real love clarifies vision. Deep love, love that runs past infatuation into true acceptance, allows you see things others can’t. You see their heart. Sometimes it’s painful to see a loved one’s true motive brushed aside by those who don’t understand. It can also be excruciating to glimpse the evil side of their intentions. Either way, love gives us a window to the soul of another.
So, when I read the first line of this gospel, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (v.15), I winced a little. It sounds like a threat, and threats aren’t rooted in love. But, Jesus wasn’t trying to force us to keep His commandments. He wanted us to see that everything we do for Him has to flow from love, including obedience.
Like obedience, love is a choice. For it to be real, it can’t be made from fear or compulsion. If we equate a life of faith with the latter, we are blind to His graces, the heart of the commandments. But if we understand the choice of love, then we want to keep them, not because we fear consequences, but because we understand they’re there out of love.
When we do grasp Jesus’s message—His teachings, His miracles, His prayer, everything He did—He gives us the context to see with eyes of faith. Then we can understand why when “the world no longer see[s] me, you will see me” (v.19). We have a depth of vision and a definition of love the world doesn’t yet understand.
This passage isn’t about forced obedience. It’s about vision and how we learn to see. It’s about the freedom we inherit when we understand the world through love.