daily biblical sermons


IF YOU KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS, YOU WILL ABIDE IN MY LOVE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 08, 2016
Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 96, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20, John 17:20-26


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).


This is Jesus' great high priestly prayer to his Father at the Last Supper. In this concluding verse of this prayer Jesus expresses the whole purpose of his mission to the world. He has come to make his Father known on earth so that all who hear Jesus' teachings and believe in him may come to live in the same splendid stream of divine love that he himself lives in and has lived in from all eternity in the bosom of his Father.


Jesus lives in the splendor of his Father's love. "The Father loves the Son" (John 3:35). And Jesus has come into the world so that he could introduce us also into this same splendid river of divine love, so "that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26). Jesus lives in this divine love, because he lives in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, filled with the radiance and magnificence of divine love. That is why he is the only one who can really reveal the Father to us, for he lives in the bosom of the Father. "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (John 1:18).


In fact, the way to enter into this river of divine love is to abide in Jesus' love, for he abides in his Father's love. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love" (John 15:9). Jesus is the mediator that the Father has sent us to mediate the Father's love to us. The Father loves Jesus, and Jesus loves us with the same divine love with which he himself is loved by his Father.


But we can see Jesus in the accounts of his life and teachings, and we can experience him in the Eucharist, his sacramentalized body and blood, containing his divinity that we eat and drink for the life of our spirit. So if we abide in Jesus' love, we abide in the Father's love. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love" (John 15:9). This, then, is why Jesus came into the world, "that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).


We can abide in Jesus' love through the Eucharist. We can also abide in his love by keeping his commandments. "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" (John 15:10). So keeping his commandments and doing his will is another way of abiding in Jesus' love, which is also abiding in his Father's divine love. "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (John 14:21). The ones who truly love Jesus are those who keep his commandments. If we keep his commandments, God will also love us and manifest himself to us.


We all, at times, break some of his commandments - hopefully only in small ways - and when we do, we lose our peace and feel sad, guilty, and depressed. So when this happens, we must confess our sin, repent, resolve to leave it behind us and to avoid this sin in the future, and then call upon the merits of Christ's reparation-making death on the cross with faith so that God may justly forgive us and declare us to be righteous and holy once again. This is best and most effectively done in the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23; Matthew 16:19; 18:18).


We do not justify ourselves by keeping the commandments. They were not given to us for that purpose. Rather, they were given to us to make us feel guilty and in need of Christ's reparation-making death on the cross for our sins. In other words, the law was given to us to lead us to the gospel. Law and gospel work together. The law (the Ten Commandments and Jesus' commandments) shows us how sinful we are and drives us with guilt and depression to the gospel, which justifies us, because of the merits of Christ's death on the cross, which made up for our sins, which made reparation for them before God so that he could justly declare us to be righteous and holy. Then, once forgiven and justified, we can once again abide in Jesus' love by keeping his commandments, just as he abides in his Father's love by keeping his commandments.


In fact, "He who says ‘I know him' but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected" (1 John 2:4-5). So by disobeying God's commandments, we are cut off from the truth and from the love of God. If we deliberately disobey God's commandments, we do not know God, and if we live in an on-going state of constantly disobeying his commandments with no intention whatsoever of repenting and changing our ways, we do not know God. "He who says ‘I know him' but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).


An example of this that is very timely today is adultery, for example, divorced and civilly "remarried" Catholics who have no intention whatsoever of repenting for constantly having sexual relations with someone who is not their wife, for their previous marriage is still valid, and hence their present union is no marriage at all but rather the mortal sin of adultery, an on-going public state of adultery that puts them in constant mortal sin, punishable by spending all eternity in hell when they die if they do not repent before it is too late and repudiate their present mortally sinful adulterous union by living as brother and sister or by completely separating and living as celibates.


They need to hear God's law to make them feel guilty and to bring them to repent and repudiate their adulterous union. They need to hear the sixth commandment of God, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14), and they need to hear Jesus' words, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11-12). Hearing this law should bring them to an awareness of the danger they are in of going to hell when they die. The law shows them what their life is really like in God's sight, as he has revealed it to us in the Bible. It shows them that their life is not pleasing to God.


This should bring them to complete repentance, that is, to promising to end their adulterous union for good, from now on. Then and only then can they be given sacramental absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23). Then and only then will God forgive them and declare them righteous and holy. Then and only then will they be able to abide in Jesus' love, who is abiding in his Father's 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" (John 15:10). "And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says ‘I know him' but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected" (1 John 2:3-5).


Neither the Eucharist nor the sacrament of reconciliation can be given to people living in an open publicly proclaimed adulterous union. Since their attempted so-called second "marriage" is a publicly made proclamation, they must now make another public promise before a priest that they have repudiated their adulterous union, promising to live henceforth in all chastity as brother and sister, abstaining from all acts permitted only to married people. Or they must separate altogether and live as celibates.


Only then can they be permitted to receive the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation. The reason is because there is no divine mercy or forgiveness without repentance and faith; and repentance means a firm purpose of amendment, the sincere intention to avoid the mortal sin of adulterous sexual relations in the future. As Cardinal Arinze said, "One cannot be more merciful than Christ." One cannot be more merciful than God! God's mercy and Christ's mercy work through repentance and faith. This means that we will promise God that we will rectify our marital status and call out with faith upon the reparation-making merits of Christ's death on the cross for our sins so that God can justly declare us righteous and holy, redeemed by Christ's blood, shed for our sins.


Then we can abide in God's love by abiding in Christ's love, especially by eating and drinking his body and blood in the Eucharist for the life of our spirit.


Those who allow the Eucharist to those who are living in a state of publicly proclaimed adultery are trying to be more merciful than Christ. If we try to be more merciful than Christ, we fall into error, the error of proclaiming a "gospel of mercy" that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ who requires repentance and faith to receive forgiveness and justification. In trying to be more merciful than Christ, we end up proclaiming a false "gospel of mercy."


Another error that we must avoid is saying that what you think is right for yourself is, therefore, right for you. You thereby ignore the Ten Commandments, the law of God, and invent your own morality. You reject God's law and make up your own law. By this way of thinking even Adolf Hitler, who surely thought he was right in killing six million Jews, was therefore acting rightly and would be regarded as just and righteous by God and go to heaven when he died, because he was following his conscience, which he had so warped by ignoring God's law that he had managed to convince himself that what he was doing was right. And so if it was right for him, it was right, and it was no sin. But, of course, this kind of thinking is absurd.


In sexual matters, things are clearly black and white. There is no such thing as a little adultery. You are either committing adultery or you are not. There is no gray area in between.


It is also false to argue for so-called "extenuating" circumstances of my particular situation of great sexual need and desires or poverty so that for me it is OK to commit adultery and live in an adulterous state, and it is no sin for me, and therefore if that's what I believe and have convinced myself of, then I am committing no sin and so should be able to receive the Eucharist. This kind of thinking is the result of rejecting God's law, which must always accompany us in the Christian life, not to justify us, but to show us our sinfulness and drive us to repent and believe in the gospel to receive Christ's mercy, forgiveness, and justification.

 

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