Today's gospel passage from John
is the beginning of what scholars call
Jesus' “farewell discourses,”
created to reflect the point of view
of the Johannine community.
They follow a first century pattern of a last will and testament
where a dying patriarch or religious leader
gave deathbed instructions to his heirs.
Assembled over a period of time,
these Johannine discourses
bear only a marginal likeness to Jesus' message.
But they do contain some remains of his intent.
After I read that “glorify” part at the beginning of this passage
at least a dozen times without making much sense of it,
I had to look it up.
I found that John uses the word “glory”
to refer to power or splendor,
which didn't help a whole lot.
It did help when I found that the word “glory”
was used to mean the manifestation of God's presence.
Then I could see it as a post-resurrection affirmation
that God's presence had been
and continued to be
manifested in Jesus.
Today's passage ends
with what is most assuredly the bedrock of Jesus' message.
It's love, the heart and soul of his teaching.
As a Jew faithful to the spirit of his tradition,
Jesus preached the great commandment,
the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:
God is one,
and you shall love God with all your being.
And he preached the commandment that he said is like it,
from Leviticus 19:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
We know from the earliest writings in our Jewish tradition—
from the Torah—
and from earlier writings in our Christian tradition—
the synoptic gospels—
that Jesus called for a radical following of God's call to love.
And that leads me to a serious examination of my own conscience:
Do I love like that?
Do I love God with my whole heart, with all my being?
Do I love my neighbor as myself?
Sometimes I manage it, but not always, not consistently.
I have a temper.
And it's not that I erupt in righteous anger at injustice.
That would be good.
No, it's that I fume
because I want something to be other than what is.
I'm mad because it's not my way.
And, as you probably have noticed,
I have a few opinions,
and sometimes I express them
without listening to what anyone else is saying.
I make judgments, too,
judgments about who I will give to and who I won't,
and it's not always love or mercy or wisdom that motivates me.
In short, I'm not really pouring myself out for others.
I'm not perfect, and I need to work at it.
Apart from my own failures at loving God and neighbor,
I don't have to look far
for other negative examples to learn from.
I grew up hearing the story of my grandmother and her three sisters
who didn't talk with each other for 58 years
because they argued over
who got the bushel basket full of canned fruit—
spoiled fruit, no less—
from their mother's pantry when she died.
On the brighter side, positive examples are all over the place.
Look at married couples
and the love it takes
to commit oneself permanently and intimately
to another person.
Look at Suzy, down with a flu-like cold last week,
phoning every tree nursery within a hundred miles
to find a semi-dwarf sweet cherry
for Tree Toledo's Earth Day planting at the Zepf Center.
Look at Mary Jo—she'll be 90 this summer,
and a liberal progressive feminist if there ever was one—
going to last Sunday's MultiFaith banquet
and covering her head with a scarf
because the event was at the mosque
and she wanted to show respect for their traditions.
Look at Liz, a TPS special-ed teacher
who keeps at it until the student blooms.
Look at Pope Francis
opening the Vatican to twelve Muslim refugees
and arranging to take care of them as they re-settle.
Down at Claver House last Monday
one of the guests, a homeless addict,
was acting really funny.
A few of the folks ignored him.
Some of them yelled at him and called him names.
But Tom noticed it
and responded with compassion and wisdom and care,
tending him until the rescue squad arrived
and got him to the hospital in time.
Sometimes it's easier to love a puppy—or even a chicken—
than a human being,
especially some of our relatives,
or the people we don't like,
the people we disagree with,
the people who do us wrong.
We aren't perfect, but we have to aim for it—
aim for that perfect love for all creation.
And that's when we pass the test—
that's when they know we are Christians
by our love.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006