O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father
Psalm 118.1-3, 14-15
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his mercy endures for ever.
Let Israel now proclaim,
‘His mercy endures for ever.’
Let the house of Aaron now proclaim,
‘His mercy endures for ever.’
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
Joyful shouts of salvation
sound from the tents of the righteous:
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘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.’
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.
In modern English we have a problem with the word ‘love’. We use this significant word in such a casual manner that its meaning is often both confused and confusing. Think of all that you have associated with the word ‘love’: your favourite book, film or piece of music; your pet; your car; your hobby; your children; your partner. These, and many more, are regularly described as objects of human ‘love’. However, when we examine the disconnected nature of this list we soon come to the conclusion that no one word can capture the subtlety of what we are trying to express. Surely our ‘love’ for a round of golf or a particular football team cannot be expressed in the same terms as our love for our partner or our children. In modern English we have a problem with the word ‘love’.
In classical Greek, the language of the New Testament, the different nuances associated with the word we universally express as ‘love’ are broken down into six different words. Those six words convey ‘love’ in terms of friendship, or hospitality, or parental love, or physical love, or self love. And then comes the sixth type of ‘love’: agape. Agape is the specific type of love spoken of by Jesus. Agape is the type of love which specifically defines the love of God.
Today’s reading opens with Jesus making a characteristically uncompromising statement: They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me. Sadly, it seems to be hard-wired into human mentality that, when confronted with an uncompromising statement, we begin to search for loopholes, for ‘get-out’ clauses. We begin to play linguistic games that sow the seeds of uncertainty and doubt. We construct arguments that create an aura of self-justifying and self-serving accommodation.
The opening statement in today’s reading leaves no wriggle-room! We cannot deny that we have the commandments. Jesus has made it clear that we are to ‘love’ both God and neighbour with an uncompromisingly open and mutual ‘love’ … the love that can only be described as agape. When we are truly committed to living a life which honours that form of self-sacrificial love we will know the total joy of God’s love for us.
Let us pray that agape may become the love that dominates and drives every moment of our lives.
Let us never fail to thank God for his agape for us.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray in the Spirit who gives us the means and the grace to pray.
As we profess our love, inspire us to give proof of love by keeping your commandments. Grant that the Church may be always guided by the Spirit of truth.
As you have created all things, and made our whole human race of one blood, bring harmony and peace to the peoples of the world. Dispel the darkness of ignorance that all may fully know you and worthily worship you.
Unite in love the members of our local community. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in our homes and give us peace.
Set free all who are held in ignorance and superstition. Bring into true faith those whose desire for forbidden knowledge has led them into evil ways.
As Christ came after his Passion to release the departed souls, so may his presence always bring comfort to the dying and eternal life to those who have died.
Rejoicing that we live in the every-living Christ, we pray in his name.
Prayer for the week
O Lord, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end:
you who were with us at our birth,
be with us through our life;
you who are with us through our life,
be with us at our death;
and because your mercy will not leave us then,
grant that we die not,
but rise to the life everlasting.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesu, thou art all compassion,
pure unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.
Charles Wesley (1707–1788)