John 14: 15-21 is the Gospel pericope for this Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Easter, 2020.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments.” So much has been written about this small phrase and so much more can be written. Is it that easy? Is it that difficult?
It is not: “Keep my commandments if you love me.” That is more of a command. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” is a request. It is a challenge. It is a challenge that I daily forget to meet. It is a challenge that daily I am not able to meet. It is a pious platitude if I don’t even try to meet the challenge. Meeting the challenge is not hopeless. “The Father will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.”
So maybe this is the way to go: try to keep the request before me today. When I do not respond adequately, remember that Jesus has sent the Spirit to sustain me. Remember that it is not impossible. Remember that there is help to continue trying. Remember that, as much as I try, I remain afraid to love as I am able. Remember that this challenge is a direction sign of how to proceed.
I had a virtual meeting with my psychiatrist yesterday. I am bipolar. (I don’t know if I have revealed this in my post thus far.) I have been on medications for 30 years and have grown to accept being bipolar as part of who I am. For insurance reasons I recently changed from seeing Dr. Marietta Almazon to seeing Dr. Bottone. Dr. Almazon and I would sometimes talk for about 30 minutes about a variety of topics, all related to my illness but not entirely clinical. We developed a friendship. But she was there primarily to renew my prescriptions every three months. I would come in and she would ask how I am doing. Most of the time I was doing well and she would give me a new prescription and off I would go. Fifteen minutes. Dr. Bottone surprised me during our second meeting. I was expecting another 15 minute conversation and prescription renewal but he extended the visit to an hour. He wants to do some actual therapy!
But I digress. I brought up my new psychiatrist because, in our time together, we nibbled on the edges of my low self-esteem. (He uses cognitive behavioral therapy.). The point is that he wants me to get away from negative thinking. That includes setting reachable goals. What does that mean for the current request?
Keeping Christ’s commandments if not a reachable goal. But I can take baby steps. The first is to try to remain conscious of the request, of the challenge. The challenge begs the question: what are your commandments? Jesus has told us. “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind.” Let all who I am love the Lord. And the second is like the first: love your neighbor as you love your self. The bottom line is that, in and of themselves, I cannot ever completely fulfill these commandments. I can keep them before me all the time. Even that is too ambitious. I can try to keep them before me all the time. And, when I don’t, I need to pick myself up and try again without sinking into negative thoughts and dismissing the effort.
So how do I move forward with this challenge today? With the help of the Spirit, I will keep the challenge before me. With the help of the Spirit, I will find and realize ways to act upon the request. With the help of the Spirit, I will not give up when I fail to meet the challenge. With the help of the Spirit, I will respond as best I can right here and right now. That is all I can do. Or is it?