I would say I grew up on a solid Catholic upbringing. It was in the late 60s and early 70s. I mistook God-fearing for fearing-God. He was somewhere out there in the universe, almighty and authoritative. I was introduced to God at a young age. I remember I was taught about God by memorizing the Ten Commandments.
They all began with “Thou shalt NOT…” It was about being a good kid, and to be a good kid was to avoid doing bad things otherwise God will punish. I grew up very religious, never missing mass. Faith was a personal matter, I never shared about it. Testimonies were for the born-again Christians. He was a distant God and I was comfortable being a slave to a Master. And so perhaps the foundation was laid for me as a Catholic to suffer this verticality in my relationship with God.
There is something wrong in this foundation, solid as it was. I don’t know about you, but the Ten Commandments do not teach me about love. True, it commanded that I must love God but “this is not the love I mean: not our love for God” (today’s second reading). Wisdom in faith dawned very late on me. I grew up full in religiosity but empty in spirituality.
I was religious but I wasn’t spiritual. I had the vertical but not the horizontal. Religion was me looking high up worshipping God. Call me “slave” and I am comfortable. To have a personal relationship with God was an impossibility. Without spirituality I am lost listening to today’s gospel, “I call you friends”.
I must have missed catechism class the day they taught the greatest commandment; a new commandment that add spirituality into our religion. “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you”. “What I command you is to love one another”.
This commandment is everything about life. Without this, religion means nothing. We will remain as kids in faith if we continue to live life in verticality, minding our own business. Love is not about not doing bad; it is about doing good for others. Simply put when we do not do anything, it means we do not have love. We need to make a choice and get involved in the lives of the other persons. Thou shalt love.
Religion is a solid foundation. From this, spirituality flows. Only in spirituality will we know God. He is not a distant, authoritative God but a God who remains in us. From the second reading, “Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God”.
When we glance vertically upwards, we must see a tower of love flowing into us. The Son said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you”. Love began flowing. Love is a choice. It is ours to allow it to continue to flow by loving one another. The Son made a choice, “You did not choose me; no, I chose you”. He chose us by stretching his arms on the horizontal beam on the cross to be the sacrifice. He was the first to allow love to flow by being the first to love one another.
6th Sunday in Easter