In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus tells His disciples, “Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love…” (John 15:9-10). But what is Jesus’s love and what does it mean to remain in it? The love that Jesus is speaking about is so much stronger and richer than our fragile, human idea of love and remaining in it is the best way to enjoy heaven on earth. When we remain in Jesus’s love, we are fulfilling His will for us since the beginning of time and ensuring our own wellbeing.
Recently, I watched a series on EWTN with Dr. Edward Sri from the Augustine Institute on men, women, and the mystery of love. In one episode, Dr. Sri explained the way that Adam and Eve saw love before the Fall. They were not selfish and did not consider that either of them could get hurt by the other. They only saw that they were there for each other, and they were willing to give themselves wholeheartedly to each other. But after they sinned, they realized that things such as selfishness and greed could enter into the relationship and so they weren’t always as open with each other for fear of getting hurt or possibly hurting the other. They had to regain each other’s trust and were open only when they saw that the other person was loving and open toward them. And so the human concept of love entered into the world. But Jesus is without sin, and so His love remained the way that love was always intended to be, the way it was for Adam and Eve before the Fall. His love is perfect and pure, and it exists for the good of the other person. It gives to the other person without reservation and without its own selfishness and desires. It doesn’t worry about offending the other person because it only looks for the truth and the other person’s good, and sometimes bringing out these issues can be uncomfortable.
To remain in this type of love, Jesus says that we must keep His commandments. In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment in the Law is. He replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” In other words, the Ten Commandments given to Moses are the blueprint for loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul and our neighbor as ourselves. As such, it is a good idea to reflect often on these commandments and examine if we are really living them out as we ought and how we can improve. For example, besides going to Mass, do we really keep holy the Sabbath day by spending time in prayer and meditation on the day’s readings and the gift we are given in the Eucharist? Do we really refrain from bearing false witness against our neighbor and refuse to listen to others who do so? Remaining in these commandments will teach us to live out Jesus’s love and spread it to others.
Jesus’s love is different from the love that the world offers because His love gives until the end, without holding anything back. We only have to look at a crucifix to realize the type of love that Jesus has for us. His love can also be tough and isn’t always warm and fuzzy, telling the other person what they want to hear. His love tells the other person what they need to hear for their own good. Because, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, to truly love is to “will the good of the other.” We learn to do this ourselves by following His commandments, learning to love God and our neighbor as we love ourselves, that is willing their good just as we would will our own good. When we make progress in doing this, we are following Jesus’s command to remain in His love and live the way He always intended us to live.