If You Love Me
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

If You Love Me

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15)  

Jesus has drawn a line in the sand. You will show your love for Him by keeping his commandments. Since Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that means that to show our love for God we must keep His commandments. How will we know His commandments and how will we have the strength to keep them? After drawing this line in the sand, Jesus tells us how. “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:16) Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will lead His Church in the way of truth.

Keeping His commands presupposes that one knows His commandments. In order to know His commands, one must delve into His Word in the scriptures. This also requires that you make an act of faith that the scriptures are truly the Word of God and are divinely inspired. In the words of Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, “for without faith, Scripture itself is not Scripture but, rather, an ill-assorted collection of literature that cannot have any normative significance for today.”

When we read the scriptures slowly and carefully, especially the Gospels, it becomes obvious that truly following Jesus is a challenge. It is hard. Some of His commandments are difficult. Love your enemy as yourself. Go and sin no more. Take up your cross and follow me. If they persecute me they will persecute you. Turn the other cheek. Did I really sign up for this? That is a question that we all need to ask ourselves. Do we believe the scriptures are the inspired Word of God? If so, then we must take the words of scripture seriously. If they are not, then I can pick and choose, because after all, it really doesn’t matter.

I think the hardest part about keeping the commandments of Jesus is the humility required. Sometimes, loving our enemy makes our ego scream out in protest. Sometimes, keeping the moral law makes the ego whisper in our ears “you can’t tell me what to do.” Sometimes, listening to the Church’s authority to “bind and loose” (Mt 16:19) makes us cringe because it goes against our ego’s perception and ideas. It is hard to be humble. It is hard to put our own desires aside and pray that God’s will be done, not our will be done. I know personally, trusting in God’s providence has always been a challenge. I want to submit to God’s will. In my head I know that God only wills what is in my best interest. I also know that in His permissive will, he allows me to make mistakes, stumble and fall and take the wrong path. Thankfully, God is always seeking us out and no matter what path we wander down, He can set our feet back on a path towards his mercy and compassion.

So let us humbly pray to God that he will send us his Holy Spirit and help us discern His will so that we can show our love for him by keeping His commandments. Let us pray for the gift of fortitude so that we will have the strength and courage to love Him. Let us pray for the grace of humility knowing that sometimes, God’s will doesn’t seem to mesh with our will. I’d like to end this reflection with a prayer from Thomas Merton.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.  ( From “Thoughts in Solitude” )

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Written by
David Seitz