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March 1977

He who loves me ... I will love him and will manifest myself to him (Jn 14:21)

I wonder how many of us have been patient enough to take a long, cool and objective look at what the Gospel actually says; and if we have been given the grace to believe, then have really accepted the implication of it. For if we really believe then we must recognise that nothing would be more beneficial or more satisfying than having Jesus manifest himself to us.

For to say that Jesus makes himself known to us is to say that we learn about him as a personal friend, someone who will be with us always to the end of the world, someone who loves us, gave his life for us and is the solution to all our problems. But it implies more than that too: for Jesus is the life that our true selves will live when they have fully developed. Furthermore he is the reality within all the circumstances of life around us, our homes, our jobs, our companions. In other words because of who he is, i.e., he through whom all things have been made, he is the solution to every riddle and complexity that any situation we may come across may give us.

So these words of Jesus for this month could be of the greatest importance for us. If we are prepared to quieten our restlessness and really look at what they imply and believe in him, then he will manifest himself to us, and a divine adventure may begin which will lead us into paths and ways so exciting and novel that we could never imagine them.

We may well ask ourselves what these words imply for us, as they contain such a wonderful promise. First of all that we respond to him who has loved us so much. But as if in anticipation of our next question, the very verse which contains, this word of life explains how we should love. "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (Jn. 14:21). But there is Jesus' commandment par excellence also: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn. 15:12).

We usually think we know what the commands are that we must have and keep; the law as it has been passed on by the church which is the continuation of Jesus in time and which must underlie our moral, ethical and social conduct. But how many of us in practice find the keeping of these laws a burden, a series of constraints on our liberty, and furthermore feel the institutional church's affairs both boring and alienating. Their keeping may be a way of loving God, and of being virtuous, but the doing of it does not, often, live up to the hope and the promise which might be expected.

Although it is true that our Christian life is made up on many commandments that have to be kept, it is a gross distortion both to feel that it is primarily a matter of keeping a series of rules - don't lie, don't steal, don't forget to go to church on Sundays - and to see these negative virtues as the light by which to regard the whole of the Christian life.

A young student put it another way, he thought it was wrong to consider Christianity as something which was a continual hard effort. Rather he felt he wanted to remain united with those others with whom he lived the ideal of Christianity, those who wanted to live Jesus' new commandment. This meant of course keeping the laws of the church because otherwise he would no longer be able to be one with the others. But this was not a grudging, tedious effort: rather it was precisely what his feelings and his will wanted. Nor was it for him an easy solution to his problem. We all know there are no short cuts to finding the truth about ourselves, about others and the world in which we, you and me, actually find ourselves. But as for this young man, difficulties and sufferings are not obstacles; for the fulfilment and the fruits that are ours are well worth all the crosses which inevitably exist, but they are grasped willingly now rather than borne in a sullen and grudging fashion.

Those who have any experience at all of living this ideal of unity in a practical way know it as a commonplace that what is demanded is a letting go of any obstacles to the building up of this reality. We have to know how to lose our prejudices, our ideas of goodness, our ideas for the future, our troubles, problems and self pity, our feverish activity, both physical and mental for the sake of what God is offering us. Only then will dark questions and worries leave us alone and our lives will become new, with a new hope to live for. But that will depend on us wanting to share the same spirit as Jesus offered us in the gospel, and that means remaining united with others who want to share this ideal, and putting into effect Jesus' commandment in a practical way to love the others as he has loved us.

The unfolding of this mystery is not merely a process which brings us out of unhappiness and sin into joyfulness and God's grace. But it is a continual process in which there is an ever increasing knowledge of the beauty and glory which God has in store for us, far surpassing our own hopes or dreams.

Jonathan Cotton, OSB

 

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