“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Usually when we think of commandments we think of the Ten Commandments, but those commandments are found in the Old Testament. Jesus’ commandments to his disciples (and that includes us) don’t tell us what not to do; Jesus’ commandments tell us what we are to do — to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. And if we truly love Jesus we will want to keep his commandments, right?
But then Jesus tells us that he is in his Father, and we are in him, and he is in us. Does that mean that Jesus is in everyone? Even in that woman who refuses to wear a face mask in Costco? How should I handle that? Should I stop her in the store aisle, explain the problem and try to reason with her? Or should I just grab her cart and threaten to call store security if she doesn’t put a mask on immediately? After all, I don’t want to catch this virus and I have to love myself, too, right? But letting my anger get out of control is only going to put more stress on my body. And making myself sick is doing violence to myself, not loving myself.
This kind of loving is complicated. Maybe that’s why Jesus promised to send help. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you.” Maybe, before my fellow shopper and I decide to slug it out, I should take a minute to pray to the Holy Spirit for help in managing my anger. After all, managing one’s anger doesn’t have to mean backing down (think of Jesus facing the moneychangers in the Temple). On the contrary, it can be a very positive step toward loving God above all and loving my neighbor as myself.
“Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Jesus promised not to leave us orphans. That’s how much he loves us. Just ask; he’ll be standing right there next to you in the aisle at Costco.
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.