Sybil 2007

Gospel text

John 15: 9-17

9 As the Father loved me, I also loved you. Keep alive this love that comes from me. 10 If you practice my recommendations, you will keep alive my love, as I have practiced my father's recommendations and I keep alive his love.

11 I have shared with you all these things so that the joy that is in me will also be in you, and that your joy will be total. 12 Here is my recommendation: love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than the one who lays down his life for the people he loves. 14 You are my friends if you do what I recommend. 15 I no longer call you servants, for the servant is not aware of his master's actions. But I call you friends, because everything I learned from my Father, I made known to you. 16 It was not you who chose me, but it was I who chose you and entrusted you with the mission of bearing fruit, and a fruit that lasts, so that whatever you ask the Father on my behalf, he will give it to you. 17 Here's my recommendation: love one another.


We only learn from the inside, by repeating the same gestures

Gospel commentary - Homily

The gateway to the mystery of God

Life is made of contrasts. Take this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, started over 3,000 years ago, which experienced new vigor 60 years ago, and whose end we are unable to see. Or, on a much smaller scale and closer to us, take these children who have been severely abused or neglected, to the point that they have conceived of an attachment disorder and live in constant anxiety of being rejected.

This is the story of this little Simon that some media have talked about: the single mother, unable to take care of him, entrusted him to a youth center where he spent part of his time under the kitchen table making all kind of tantrums, howling and spitting. An educator with the patience of an angel succeeded in reestablishing the beginning of a relationship of trust. The next step is just as difficult: finding a host family. When one is lucid about all the dimensions of life, how can one receive this passage today from the Gospel of John which resembles a love song taken from another world.

To tame this discourse where Jesus speaks of his father and his relationships to us, I imagined this scene. A father or a mother, knowing that his strength is diminishing and that the end is not far away, feels the need to reunite his family to somehow leave his will. "As my parents loved me, I loved you too. Keep alive this love I offer you. If you act the way you were showed, you will be able to keep alive the love that comes from me, just as I acted like my parents and I was able to keep alive their love. I am sharing these things with you so that you yourself can experience the joy that lives in me, and that this joy is total. Here is what I am asking you: learn to love one another, as I have loved you. No one shows greater love than the one who gives himself totally for the people he loves. You become friends for me by doing what I ask you. Note that I no longer call you children, because a child does not share the privacy of his parents. But I call you friends, because I was able to share with you the intimacy that I lived with my own parents. It was not you who chose to give birth to me, on the contrary it was I who chose to give birth to you and I raised you in such a way that you brought something lasting to this world, to so that I will always be by your side to support you when you need it. Here's what I'm asking you: learn to love one another."

You will have noticed that this is a paraphrase of today's Gospel. Because it is the language of parent-child relationships that Jesus uses to introduce us to the mystery of God. But let there be no mistake: the simplicity of the words does not prevent us from being confronted with a reality that is difficult to penetrate, insofar as we understand that the Gospel of John does not speak only of Jesus, but also of us and our world. So where is this love that we and our world would have received as a gift, and that we would be invited to transmit, as we transmit the Olympic flame. How to explain this to the little Simon in mourning for parents or to the belligerent Israeli-Palestinians?

One day a father said to his daughter, "The day you have children, you will understand what we have done for you". In other words, you can only really understand the love received from others by living it yourself. Thus, people filled with parental love, will only really understand the love received by loving people like little Simon. And Simon, in turn, can only discover the love that led him to be a man by loving in turn. And so we need each other to find out who we are.

But there is more. By doing this, says Jesus, we become his friends, i.e. we enter into the very mystery of God: "I no longer call you servants or children, but friends ... because you now share my intimacy."

We are far from romantic love. Mother Theresa of Calcuta has already said, "Love is when it starts to hurt". And the love that will heal the wounds of Palestinians and Israelis will hurt. But curiously, this world, where Mother Theresa worked with the poorest of the poor, was called: city of joy. "I have shared with you all these things, said Jesus, so that the joy that is in me will also be in you, and that your joy will be total". It is up to us to take this path.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, January 2009