“If you love me….”

Sixth Sunday in Easter C, May 5, 2013

John 14: 23-29

 “If you really love me….”

 The Rev. Leonard Oakes


Last Sunday’s reading is the continuation of Today’s Gospel. We read last Sunday of Judas, (not Iscariot), inquiring about this question, Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world? Jesus must have seen doubts in the hearts of his disciples, thus he said today, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.” “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

In this Gospel reading from John, the writer deals with the issue of the church living in a hostile world without the visible presence of Christ. He tells his community through these words attributed to Jesus that obedience and love are the conditions ruling the life of the church and therefore guaranteeing the sense of Christ’s living presence as God’s representative. John then goes on to make an additional promise that the Holy Spirit will teach them and bring to their remembrance all that Christ said to them.

Understanding the Love of God and obeying the commandments are difficult to attain without the help of the Holy Spirit who advocates the Love of God in Jesus Christ. Often times, we question the seeming absence of the Holy Spirit to interpret and give us signs on the meaning of all the things that are happening around us and in our lives. There’s so much hatred in the world. It’s easier to hate than to love. The worst result is when we give up on God and stop believing. When we stop believing, we shut our doors when God comes to us knocking and wanting to make a home with us.

On one Sunday morning, at 8 am, the mother started to worry why his son is not getting out of bed for Church. The mother knocked at his son’s room and said, “It’s already 8 in the morning, aren’t you going to Church today?” The door opened with the son still on his pajama. The son said to his mother, “I will tell you two reasons why I am not going to that Church: First, they don’t love me; Second, I don’t like them either.”

Then the mom blurted out and said, “Son, let me tell you two reasons why you are going to Church today: First, you are 43 years old, and second, you are the Priest.”

Sometimes we look at our coming to Church as an obligation or just a perfunctory work because our parents dragged us here or it may be that we don’t want to disappoint the priest or our friend thus we come anyway . Many times we make our reasons to excuse ourselves from Sunday Services because somehow we were successful in making excuses in our work place. These things continue to happen until we realized that we have shut our doors when God is trying to come and make a home with us. To love God is not to please those who are around you, but God alone. Your relationship with God depends on your pure intention to serve Him in any ways without complaining. (To love God is not like the puppy love you had in high school where you got crush on someone else and suddenly you just dumped her/him) Loving God is not asking the impossible to happen. I recall a favorite Tagalog ballad where a lady, after hearing the supplications of her suitor, tells him:

 “Kung talagang tunay na ako’y mahal mo,

Magtanim ka muna ng niyog sa bato;

ngayon din bubunga, ngayon din bubuko,

ngayon din kukuha ng igagata ko.”

(If you really, really love me, plant a coconut tree. Right now it will bear fruit, right now it will bring me coconut fruit, right now, it will give me coconut milk to cook my food.)

We can plant coconut seedling now, but how in the world can we expect it to grow instantly and bear fruits and give us coconut milk right away? Even in this age of instant coffee and instant marriage, we cannot have instant coconut milk according to the prescription of the ballad.

Love of God is unconditional, it is revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. The love of Christ will be revealed to us only with the help of the Holy Spirit. This revelation will freely come to us when we open the doors of our hearts to welcome God and make a home with us.

One of the wonderful things I learned at the Clergy Reflection, Education, Discernment Opportunity (CREDO) in Texas was about the forgiveness of one’s self.  Loving God is to be able to forgive others as well as forgive yourself. Being in Texas in the past two weeks for a 5 days clergy retreat, is a life giving opportunity and I thank you all for allowing me to participate. It opened my heart and mind on ways how to welcome God to dwell in me. Just being away for a week from life’s constant battle gave me the chance to unwind my burdens and renew my strength from various inspirations. Some of the plans and goals I came up from this retreat are of Financial Freedom, Work Load Management and Health Holistic plan. Financial burden, unmanaged work load and unhealthy life, to me, are the daily source of my stress in life. These three are not often talked about in public and even at home, and often times will result to a broken relationship if it is not dealt with Love. They are the culprits in the elevation of our blood pressure that may result to health complications and maybe early demise. These three, if not addressed earlier, will destroy the plans I have for my family, my community and myself. So i made resolved with good intentionality to address them and I would like to share them with you for your own reflections:

On Finance, some of the things I regularly buy outside such as coffee, tea, pastries and the expensive meals will have to be modified. I will start to cook at home (or ask my mom in-law to cook lunch for us). Start saving for the rainy day. You will never know what the future has in store. It’s good to be prepared. I will invite my family to plan with me for our monthly budget.

On Workload, I have to learn to say NO on requests when I know that I have other things to accomplish. Be able to manage calendars and reminders and being mindful of my personal and family needs. I will invite my family to plan with me for a quality family time and laughter.

On Health, I will set a walking sessions within the week for at least 1 to 2 hours thrice a week, participate in our Saturday HCSM Walkers at Lake Merced and a Golf twice a month. Regular deep breathing and relaxation sessions in between work, and oh! I would have to let go of my favorite cinnamon rolls, soda and ice cream. I will invite my family to go to grocery with me and choose healthy foods to cook. I will make sure I have a good sleep and be able to smile in the morning as i begin another blessed day.

Above all these, I have to learn to forgive myself. Refrain from blaming myself when I fail. Accept myself. Learn to say NO! Give myself freedom to change my mind. Become my own permission giver (It’s OK to relax, rest. Set a realistic limits. Under schedule myself.) Become my own best friend (Protect myself as I would my love ones.) Separate my past from my present (Future doesn’t have to be like the past. Control the present) Expect the best. Try not to anticipate the worst. And treat myself the way I want to be treated.

These things may not be made possible without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, our advocate, who constantly reminds me to do the right thing and stay focused. If God is love and I am His own and that my body is God’s temple, I must welcome God to dwell in me with all my heart, mind and spirit by taking care of myself.

How about you? Would you set a realistic goal for yourself now and be consistent with good intentionality? Should you rather choose to be at peace with God and yourself? Or dwell in the house of misery and despair?

Just as the Gospel today ended, I encourage you all to rise and let us be on our way to spread the love of God among others. Amen.

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