John Heard: love means obedience

03 Sep 2008

By The Record

If ye love me, keep my
commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, e’en the Spirit of truth.
– John 14: (15–17)


How do you love your mother? You show her that you appreciate her efforts on your behalf, the ancient ones alongside the more recent, and you listen to her word.   
With a father, too, the program is not that difficult. Cultivate his affection, pay attention to his wisdom – he must have some, even the silliest man at least has experience to draw on – and honour him.
How do we love each other? Like the Christ loved us. That one is a mystery. I won’t venture there.
How do we love God? Here there is another mystery, but we have some guidance.
In John, Jesus tells us to love Him by keeping His commandments.
It is one of those times when He clearly marks Himself out as more than another prophet, beyond just a man of God.
The Christ has come in Jesus, and He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
The commandments He references are the same ones Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.
Notice the sequence.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. Then, I will ask the Father. The Father will listen to Me. On the strength of My prayer, the Father will give you another Comforter. The Comforter will abide with you. Truth will come down, and abide with you forever.
It is a mighty thing that Jesus makes for us.
Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585), a Catholic composer working during the turbulent years of the English schism, took the English words of John 14: 15–17 and set them to music.
His anthem, If ye love me, is a solid, shimmering thing. You may read into them what you might, based on the historical context, but contemporary Catholics – especially same sex attracted men – cannot help hearing the words in the setting as a wake up call.
Certainly, there is no escaping the beauty. It hunts one down.
I was on my way to bed, a little weary from a short walk in the cold, and very keen to keep warm.
Instead, inspired by two snatches that played randomly on my iPod, I sat down and wondered about God’s love.
As my limbs grew cold, I wrote those lines about a mother, and a father.
I turned my stupid, stubborn, unwieldy mind to God.
“If you love me”. What is a man to do with a God who yearns? A God, indeed, who yearns for man’s love?
“Keep My commandments”. There it is. That is the program.
Christians understand it as the only way to bridge the bright, terrifying gap between the Jews’ omnipotent One and the Messiah who has come. How does one make up the distance to God? How do we love Him?
We do the right thing. We mend what is broken. We keep clean, and pattern our hearts and minds after His laws. He will do the rest.
Tough call, sure, especially when the “fat, relentless ego” gets in the way.
Then, there is doubt.
Certainly, I face a mountain of struggle. Flabby, silly creatures that men are, we turn away from the angel because he is too bright, and we flee from the God Who is Love.
How many times have same sex attracted men, faced with this brightness, and His Love, turned instead to petty things?
How often have we doubted Him, or blasphemed His power?
Whether out of despair, or pride, or anger, how common it is to see the things that belong to God – including our bodies – lampooned, or defiled in “gay” marches, and other places associated with the modern, homoactivist lifestyle.
How piercing, and beautiful – an extreme contrast – are the swell and call of Tallis’ composition.
How transparently do they show the tender mercy of Christ?
Swell and call, love and light.
The answer is right there, and it is that God loves us – and wants us to love Him – if only we will keep His commandments.