True Love Is Not Burdensome
Thursday of Week 5 in Eastertide
Acts. 15:7-21 & Jn. 15:9-11
Jesus commands His disciples to love one another, but He first says that He loves them as the Father loves Him. The Father loves the Son with perfect and infinite love and this same love is shown by Jesus for us. We can never exhaust the full depths of this mystery, but we can ask the Lord to show us more and more fully how unfailing and inexhaustible is His love for us.
It is only because of this love that Jesus has for us that we are able to love others. He tells us to abide in His love, that is, to ponder His love for us and to show our love for Him in actions. We abide in His love by keeping His commandments. As we understand more deeply His love for us we shall love Him in return and desire to do His will.
Keeping His commands is not meant to be burdensome, for He is not a harsh taskmaster. It should be a willing submission to the Lord who loved us enough to die for us. Our nature tends to respond negatively to ideas of obedience, but true Christian obedience is the path to freedom and joy. Disobedience to God can only lead in the end to emptiness, despair and slavery. Jesus Himself took joy in obeying His Father's commands. "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work." We too can find joy in doing God's will in our lives. Obedience is at the very heart of the Christian life and what it means to live in the power of the Spirit. Our spiritual lives will not bear fruit unless we are striving to obey the Lord. If we do not obey with love our obedience is mere legalism.
In our first reading we see how it was the will of some that converts to Christianity from paganism should follow the customs of Judaism. But Paul and Barnabas, guided by the Spirit, wanted to free them from the burdens of the law so that they could serve the Lord in freedom. They, together with the apostles, simplified the requirements of the first converts. They did not want to lay extra burdens on them.
Do we listen to the voice of God's Spirit? It may be telling us things we do not want to hear: to forgive someone against whom we have a grudge, to let go of envy when we meet friends or family, or to spend time with those whose company we find uncongenial.
Lord Jesus, in loving You and others we may find some things hard, but as we struggle to love and obey we shall find, with God's help, that loving obedience which bears the fruit of joy and peace in our lives.