Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."
I would like to consider Jesus' admonition that we are to keep his commandments combined with his comment that he has kept his Father's commandments.
We can all agree that he fulfilled the Father's will, but given how much he trashed the purity laws - touching corpses and stuff lie that, while defending his disciples on matters of food and hygiene, not to mention working, that is, healing on the Sabbath - you have to concede that in a literal and legalistic sense he did not keep the commandments very well at all. Which gets us back to the beginning of this paragraph: he fulfilled the Father's will by keeping the spirit of the Torah and the prophets and the writings.
I say this in order to take seriously Jesus' call for us to obey him without turning such a sublime passage about love into a legal code, ammunition for moralistic finger wagging.
An Episcopalian canon lawyer pointed out to a group one evening that the Roman Catholic Codex Iuris Canonicis concludes with an amazing sentence declaring that the salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church.
Can. 1752 - In causis translationis applicentur praescripta canonis 1747, servata aequitate canonica et prae oculis habita salute animarum, quae in Ecclesia suprema semper lex esse debet.In today's Gospel Jesus says that his purpose in giving us commands is so that we may love one another.
Can. 1752 In cases of transfer the prescripts of can. 1747 are to be applied, canonical equity is to be observed, and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.
One cannot hear me preach many times without hearing me say something that may be new to someone reading here, namely that Grace precedes Law, in the Hebrew Scriptures as in the New Testament. If you were raised on "first the law, then grace," unlearn it right now. It is a lie that has been foisted on you.
Witness: Exodus comes before Sinai. The people are delivered, saved, first and then the Torah is given to show them and assist them in living like a delivered people. It is not to gain God's favor but to live like a people who have experienced God's favor and saving power. The Law is a gracious gift to an already saved people. Let that sink in.
The purpose of Jesus' command is not gain God's favor but so those who are already beloved and redeemed may live like a beloved and redeemed people.
Let us then revel in the astounding graciousness of today's passages and may love abound in, around, among, and through us.
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.