Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


I have called you friends

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples,
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.
John Kavanaugh, S. J. of Saint Louis University writes of this passage:
God’s love for us revealed in the offering of the Son for the forgiveness of our sins. It is the same love that Paul celebrates in the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians, the love from which, he writes in Romans, we can never be possibly separated.

Jesus, in the fourth Gospel, calls us to live in that love. How are we to do that? By keeping his command-ments. Ah, finally the law, finally right and wrong. And what is his command-ment? “Love one another as I have loved you.” There is no escape. Our faith in Jesus is haunted by the mystery of love.

Perhaps this mystery itself is what causes us disquiet. Love, after all, is not easily won, rarely found, and never really earned. It also leads to improbable situations like that of the prodigal son and the lost sheep and to forgiveness for dreadful sinners.

This is, of course, not the narcissistic and self-indulgent state of mind that passes for “love” in contemporary life. Nor is it the great tidal wave of emotion associated with “falling in love.” Rather it is, Paul reminds us, patience and kindness. It lets go of jealousy, conceit, and resentment. It delights in the truth. It trusts. It hopes. It endures. All of these qualities of love are attributes of God’s love for us. What is more, love’s greatest expression—to lay down one’s life for one’s friends—is what the Passion means.

None of this is new. And none of it is easy.

To have or not have rules can be easy. To keep or break commandments can be easy. We can set up our lives in such a manner that we allow no restraint or limit on our egos and desires. We can also legislate our lives so relentlessly that we delude ourselves into thinking that we have actually earned, produced, and now control the love that our scriptures speak of.

But the love revealed in Jesus, simple as it sounds, is terribly arduous. That is why the history of our faith so often reads like a history of our resistance to love.

Give us rules. Give us magic. Give us threats. Give us mighty victories in war or splendid successes in the marketplace to insure our worthiness. Give us Communion counts, converts, and the approval of the nations to guarantee our righteousness. But the mystery of love?

One of Dorothy Day’s favorite passages from world literature occurs in Dostoevski’s The Brothers Karamazov, where the old Father Zossima points out to Madame Hohlokov that her supposed crisis of faith is really a crisis of love: “For love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. . . . But active love is labor and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps a complete science.”

No, love is not as easy as we may think. And its challenge to us is certainly nothing new.
Tomorrow we will consider that love through which Jesus called his disciples and those of us who follow him his friends. In the meantime, here's a joke that won't be in that sermon...
A mother was preparing pancakes for her two sons, the older was five and the younger three. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson here. "If Jesus were sitting here," she said, "he would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.'" Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"

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