Three words: From Jesus and to Jesus

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Sixth Sunday of Easter at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington.

Three words: not difficult to spell or to say, yet expressing a profoundly deep reality, bringing joy and delight to both the person to whom they are spoken and the person who is speaking them. Three words: "I love you!" When did Jesus explicitly say these words in the Gospels? Nowhere does He say them explicitly until the night before He died as He spoke to His closest friends, the Apostles, at the Last Supper. "As the Father loves me, so I also love you."

Yes, Jesus Christ spoke these words to the Apostles then and He has not ceased to speak them since then. He is speaking those words to you and to me right now: "I love you."

Is there some sign that Jesus truly loves you and me? Of course there is, in fact, there are many. One clear sign of His love for you and me is the fact that He has chosen us precisely because He loves us. Did we not just hear Him say: "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. …" To be chosen because we are loved is such an exhilarating experience. To realize that someone is freely choosing to love us in the unique bond of marriage or in the relationship of friendship: There is such wonder in that choice of love!

The Lord Jesus tells us that He first has chosen us to be His friends. "I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father." In the time of Jesus, there was a privileged circle called the friends of the King, or the friends of the Emperor. They were his closest friends, who had access to him at any time and to whom he confided everything. So, Jesus Christ has chosen us to be His closest friends to whom He shares the secrets of His loving Heart.

But, there is still a greater sign and a clearer proof of His love for us: His dying on the Cross so that we can live here, with purpose and meaning, and hereafter forever with Him. Again, today, He tells us: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." He laid down His life for us precisely because He loves us!

But, why has Jesus Christ in His love for us chosen us to be His friends? "…but (it was) I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain." So, we are chosen in love to bear fruit that remains. What is this fruit that remains? It is love that is self-giving, that is, sacrificial; love that is faithful and enduring; love that is life-changing and life-sustaining! Jesus Christ chooses us in love to bring the love He gives us to others, whether they be close at hand: family members, co-workers, neighbors, friends, or whether they be far away: those on the peripheries, as Pope Francis puts it.

The Lord Jesus never ceases to amaze us! He chooses us precisely because He first loves us, and He then sends us forth to bring His love through us to others. This is what the friends of Jesus do, His disciples, you and I!

But how can we respond to this amazing love of the Lord Jesus? How can we remain His chosen friends and bear the fruit that remains? Jesus Himself gives us the key to do this. "Remain in my love." The word "remain" also can mean "abide" or "dwell." The reality of remaining in Jesus equals being in close contact with Jesus. Love, if it is genuine and real, transcends the self, goes out beyond the self to be united with another. This is true in marriage and in friendship. So, remaining in Jesus Christ means going beyond the self to be in close contact with Him, in deepening our union with Him, especially through the experience of prayer. Moreover, it also means going beyond the self to reach out to others. Only when we remain in Him, can we be given the love that opens our heart in prayer to Jesus and in service to others, bearing the fruit that remains. And should we forget, Jesus gently but clearly reminds us: "This is my commandment: Love one another."

Today, in our nation, we honor those whose love bears fruit that remains: those who day in and day out give the kind of love that nurtures, protects, heals and strengthens - no matter what, the kind of love that endures. We honor mothers and beseech the Lord to love them into eternal life.

Yes, three words: not difficult to spell or to say, yet life-giving and life-sustaining! "I love you" says Jesus Christ to you and to me. As we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, with what words will we respond? Why not the same three words!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015