“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (John 15:9) Jesus’ words here are both beautiful to our ears, but they also include an admonition. This passage comes in the longer passage about the vine and the branches. It is a powerful, verdant metaphor for life and for our relationship with God.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (verse 5). We are also told that if we remain firmly connected to the vine, receiving the flow of its life giving graces, and if we then live in accord with his words, we can ask for whatever we want and it will be done for us. This is the very definition of a healthy, life-giving relationship. It is a dialogue, an economy of love. It is an emptying of the self, a giving of the whole self to the other, without expecting in return. In a relationship, this is how we remain in each other. We empty ourselves to fill the other. God did this in giving himself to us in Jesus. Jesus did this by emptying himself on the cross, so that we might have life, that is, eternal life with him. It is in remaining faithful, by giving our whole selves to God, emptying ourselves of ego and sinful desires, that he then can fill us up to overflowing with his love. It is only in remaining attached to the one who is the vine, that we “branches” can have life within us.

And here is the admonition: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (verse 10). You see, love is not just a matter of receiving. It demands that we remain responsible to the one who loves us by loving him, and others, in return. God has given us the commandments, not to enslave us to him, but quite the opposite; he gave them to us in order to make it possible for us to know the good and, then, to be able to choose freely to do the good for him, ourselves, and others…or not. If we look at this passage in this way, we can see that God’s love always honors our freedom. And it reveals the reward that is available to us if we freely choose to love God, others, and ourselves in return.

What is that reward? “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (verse 11). There it is. The fruit that comes from remaining in love with him is nothing less that joy. Anyone who has known love, has had a hint of this joy that Jesus is speaking about here. If our love is of God, that is, if we the branches have remained in him (the vine) who is love, that eternal, unconditional love will remain in us and it will bear joyful fruit in all of our relationships here on earth. O, how beautiful this is to our ears.

Lord, You are the vine that nourishes all those who remain in your love. Help us to love you in the same way that your Son Jesus loved you. Give us the graces we need to let go of all that gets in the way of our loving you so that we may bear much fruitful joy to those we love in our own lives. We know that without you and your love, we are nothing. In Jesus’ name, we pray!

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