Loving Jesus from the heart-knowledge

Sixth Sunday of Easter

ACTS 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 3:15-18

Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.

John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."

Jesus has one consuming passion before He leaves this world; that His disciples would continue to live in love with Him. Given the fact that human memory is fallible and the will feeble, how could this relationship prosper beyond His death? In response to these human limitations, Jesus has apparently spelled out a practical way of loving Him, that is, to keep His commandments (Jn 14:15). He will send the Spirit of truth to teach and remind His disciples of His word. He also promises them gifts, namely, the love of the Father, the abiding presence of the Son and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17, 20, 21).

It would seem that keeping Jesus’ commandments is the same as loving Him, that is, if we want to love Jesus (or show our love for Him), all we need to do is to keep His commandments. A deeper reflection may reveal to us the rationale in a different manner. Could “keeping Jesus’ commandments” be the result of loving Him? (that is, loving Jesus precedes the action of keeping His word). Is there a difference between the two? While the former is simply obedience to satisfy a conditional demand, the latter is a personal and affectionate relationship that gives rise to do what is requested willingly, pleasurably and spontaneously.

So what is this love for Jesus and how do we attain it? To the apostles, they had the privilege of being with Jesus and were acquainted with Him. To us, love for Jesus is a response to God’s love for us, “we love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Jesus is the greatest revelation of God’s love (rf 2 Corinthians 4:6-7) for He loves us to the point of giving up His own life for us (rf Jn 3:6, Rm 5:8). Through the writings (in the form of the canonical gospels) of the four evangelists who were inspired by the same Spirit of truth, we can share the apostolic treasure of knowing Jesus. As we grow in intimate knowledge of Jesus’ words and deeds, we are able to receive Him into our hearts through faith; whereby faith leads to love.

When we love God, we will obey His commandments and His commandments will not be a burden to us (rf Mt 11:30), instead, they give us joy and peace (Ps 1:2, 112:1, 119:1-2). The Holy Spirit empowers us not only to want to obey but also to delight in doing so from our hearts, “To do your will, O God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart” (Ps 40:8). When we walk in life guided by the Holy Spirit and loving Jesus with the heart-knowledge, His promises to us are as true as they were to the apostles.

Posted: May 21, 2017

May Tam

 
May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)


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