The gospel text this week begins "If you love me..." and ends "and I will love them and reveal myself to them." From this beginning and ending, Blair Gilmer Meeks suggests that this text is a "poem for lovers." She continues:
...but it reflects a particular style of loving. Unlike the often fleeting infatuation of first love, the love John speaks of is deep intimacy rooted in profound experience of care. It is a love that survives death and that models for us the kind of love we are invited to have for each other.
While this kind of love possesses many qualities, we will focus on four: obedience, companionship, revelation, and union. Obedience is the ability to be open to listen to the authentic invitations for life and to respond in a way consistent with one's best sense of self.
Companionship highlights the commitment of care that heralds authentic love. When love exists between two people the commitment is also present. The focus is the other's well-being, which involves helping that person grow in responsible selfhood. "Love consists in this: that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other," writes Rainer Maria Rilke.
Revelation includes transparency and vulnerability based on trust. Because one experiences oneself as cared for, one risks revealing more of oneself. The journey of self-discovery corresponds with the love journey.
The love Jesus speaks of to those who choose the lifestyle of the reign of God is inclusive, freeing, vulnerable and strong. Naturally, this love cannot be experienced and expressed in the same depth with all persons; it is manifested in various ways with various people. joined together through common bonds of obedience, companionship, revelation and union.
What is startling about the love poem on Jesus' lips is that the love it reflects is the heart and source of our lives. It is God's love for us, the gift of grace. But unlike some expressions of intimacy, this love is manifested in the experience of loving and being loved by the other. We come to know God and God's love through the experience of love in creation, in each other and most radically in Jesus the Christ. God's love is not one that asks us to choose between God and the other. It asks us to choose God through the other. Our very ability to live in obedience, companionship, revelation and union with ourselves and others is founded on and strengthened by God's love. [Blair Gilmer Meeks, "The Healing Word," Homily Service, 38.6 (May 2005): 8-9.]
Blair Gilmer Meeks is a writer living in Brentwood, Tennessee, and a former staff member of The Liturgical Conference.