Saturday, May 28, 2011

6th Sunday of Easter • John 14:15-21 • Obeying God out of love not fear

Manila Bulletin:

Once a Jew was arguing with a Christian. “Your whole religion is based on ours,” the Jew said. “Why, you even took the 10 Commandments from us.”

“We may have taken them,” said the Christian, “but you certainly can’t say we’ve kept them.”

In this 6th Easter Sunday’s Gospel, Christ teaches that what’s crucial is not just possessing or knowing the Commandments but keeping them.

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Thus, the Lord says: “Anybody who receives My Commandments and KEEPS them will be one who loves Me” (Jn 14:23).

Many of us go to Sunday Mass because failure to do so means committing a mortal sin, and if we die, we’ll go to hell. We obey God’s commandments out of fear of punishment or hope of reward in heaven. Normally, we don’t obey them for the reason Jesus gives in today’s gospel, that is, for love.

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There are different ways we can view God’s commandments. We can look on them as a burden or restriction to our freedom. Take, for instance, God’s command of being faithful to one’s spouse. Some men feel restricted of their freedom to enjoy the company of other women. Infidelity, however, can cause deep hurt, sorrow, and broken families.

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And this brings us to the second way by which we can look at the commands of God. We can look at them as GUIDES in our journey through life. These may be compared to traffic signs – “Danger Ahead,” “Slow Down,” “No Overtaking,” and so on. They are there to guide us so we can reach our destination safely and ultimately, our heavenly home.

* * *

Several years ago the American Medical Association came up with the startling result of a survey conducted among several thousand general practitioners. The doctors responded that they felt qualified to treat only about 10 percent of their patients.

When questioned about the 90 percent, the doctors said that these patients suffered from real pain. But their problem wasn’t a chemical or physical one; it was psychological.

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In other words, the real causes of their illnesses were things like anger, pent-up hostilities, loneliness, negative feelings, or destructive lifestyles.

For instance, when we hold a grudge or refuse to forgive, we hurt ourselves as much as we hurt our enemy. To put it in a more dramatic and vivid way, the sword we use to hurt our enemy passes first through our own body.

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The ancient Chinese had a proverb that says, “When you pursue revenge, dig two graves: One for your enemy and one for yourself.

In short, Jesus’ command to forgive enemies is not merely a restriction to our freedom but effects physical wellness and healing.

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Finally, we can look upon Jesus’ command as an invitation to love. “If you love Me,” Jesus says in today’s gospel, “you will obey My commandments.”

I recall how one brother of ours would resent and rebel being ordered around by our parents. But years later, when he had a girlfriend who told him to do things that were inconvenient, he would unquestioningly follow.

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Today’s Gospel invites us to check our motives. ASK YOURSELF: Why do I obey Jesus’ commandments? Do I do it out of fear of punishment? Or do I do it for love that seeks opportunities of service? 

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