If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love

Lots of people would pay a fortune for the secret to the complete joy that Jesus promises in today’s Gospel reading (John 15:10).   Shelves and shelves of self-help books in shops around the world are living proof of that.   So too are the countless lifestyle gurus whose seminars consistently sell out.   It’s a good thing that Jesus gives it away for free!

You will have joy that is “complete,” Jesus promises, if you remain in his love (John 15:11).   And just how do you do that?   “Keep my commandments . . . just as I have kept my Father’s commandments” (15:10).

So there is a catch after all!   Obedience is such a chore.

Well, not really. Instinctively, we all sense that we’re happy when we’re doing what God wants—even when it’s difficult.   If nothing else, we know this from how we feel when we aren’t doing his will.   Cardinal John Henry Newman made this point in one of his sermons:

Can’t you recall, at some time or other, having done something you knew to be wrong?   Don’t you remember what a piercing bitter feeling came on you afterwards?  Isn’t the feeling of a bad conscience more distressing than any other?

Why is it so distressing?   Because God created us to be happy by abiding in him.   So when we choose our way over his, we are going against our very nature.   We are disrupting the flow of love that sustains us and gives us such joy.

The truth is, obedience to God is the exact opposite of wearisome duty.   It’s the golden key that unlocks room after room of spiritual treasures.   Every saint knew this.   Even when obedience was painful and costly, the saints tried to hold fast to God’s will.   They knew it would open the way to the deepest longing of the human heart—to be with Jesus.   They knew what Cardinal Newman knew: that living like this isn’t burdensome.   Instead, as Cardinal Newman tells us, it brings “indescribable joy and gladness.”

What does obedience mean for you?   Does your golden key need a little dusting off?

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