To John’s Gospel particularly we owe our concept of the hallmark of Christian faith and tradition: love. If we assume that the writer of the epistles of John is the same John as the Gospel writer, then we see the teaching on the centrality of love broadened and deepened.
Faithfulness, self-sacrifice, unconditional acceptance, and forgiveness – all these we see in Jesus’ vision of the love that draws us into unity with each other and with the Father.
It is perhaps this emphasis above all that gives John’s Gospel its mystical flavour. He shows us Jesus as a priestly, transcendent, cosmic figure – pre-existent and eternal, a being of light. But the heart of mysticism is not so much its transcendence as that it experiences the attraction of the soul towards God as a matter of the heart, not the intellect. The union with Mystery is at a level beyond words, reaching heights whose air only love can breathe.
In spite of this, the love John advocates is rooted in practical expression: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep” (John 21:15–18). As the epistle 1 John puts it (1 John 4:12): “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
What does it mean to say we love God? Is it a feeling, a way of life, or both? How is our love of God experienced, and how is it expressed?
Jesus said, “This is my command: love each other.” How is it possible to
command a person to love? Doesn’t love have to grow naturally? How might we fulfil this command?
Jesus charged us, “Now remain in my love.” Do you feel loved by God – by Jesus? It may be easier to put into practice his command to love than to be loved! What do you think?
O God your love brought us into being, gave everything to save us and set us free, and holds out to us the promise of abundant life, the joy of our salvation. Give us the grace to embrace with the eagerness and trust of children your love, which watches and waits for us; and give us grace to so dwell in your love that every day, without even thinking, we pass it on. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.