Acts 10. 44 – 48

John 15. 9 – 17

Fr Alex


“All you need is love.”  When the Beatles sang those words in the turbulent 1960s, it was giving voice to the idea that if only we could do away with all the rules and traditions and rituals – and indeed all the different religious systems – we would be so much happier.

We don’t need any of that, we just need to share the love.  It’s an idea that is still around today.  ‘Just be kind,’ say the celebrities, and your life will be better.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it.  But love is a difficult thing to pin down.  We may love a person passionately, to the point where it consumes our every thought.  But we may also ‘love’ a book, or TV show, or a particular flavour of ice cream.

When we hear the word ‘love’ in the New Testament, it’s actually translating one of several different Greek words, all describing different aspects of love.

Our language doesn’t really have a way of capturing this, unless we try to use mutually-exclusive terms, such as the love of deep friendship, erotic love, love for close family, and so on.

But on their own they fail to grasp the sense of love as being a complicated, overlapping, multi-faceted thing.  It is not something you can easily define – there is no set formula for how or why we love something.

And we get the same feeling in our Gospel reading today.  Jesus doesn’t just tell his disciples to love one another, and that’s it (as the Beatles might).  He tells his disciples to love one another; and taches them some astonishing things about what this love actually is.

The first thing he tells us is that love comes from God.  Jesus tells us that he loves us, just as God loves him.  So the love that he has for us – and the love he calls us to have for each other – is the same love that is shared among the persons of the Trinity.

But that’s quite a mind-boggling thing.  How can we conceptualise the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  Well actually that’s what St Augustine takes as his starting point, when he tries to help us understand the nature of God as Trinity.  That God is the lover, the beloved, and the love that unites them, all at the same time.

God the Trinity is love itself.  And this is a love that is abundant, offered without reserve or qualification.  A love that is not possessive or oppressive – but selfless, creating space for the other to be.

It takes us quite far away from our modern sense of love as being all about our choice, or for our own benefit.  Rather, true love is something that is ultimately concerned with the other.  And it is something that is ultimately out of our control.

Indeed, Jesus says here: “You did not choose me but I chose you.”  Elsewhere, St John says in his first epistle: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

The impulse to love comes from God: God has chosen love to be the way he lives his divine existence, and how he chooses to share that existence with us.  Our desire to love is our response to first being loved into being by him.

And Jesus shows us something else today: that the love with which God activates and inflames our own desire to love, is ultimately a sacrificial one.  Jesus told his followers earlier in the Gospel, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

And here, just before he goes to die for the world, he tells them that there is “no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

But the great mystery that we’ve been celebrating in this Easter season, is that this sacrificial love it is not a love that leads to death: Jesus tells us today that it is a love that abides; and abides joyfully.

A love that abides through the difficulties and dangers of the world; a love that abides even after we have experienced death.  This is how Jesus triumphs over death, through love: love remains, when all other things come to an end.

So love doesn’t lead to death; rather it leads to life.  As the love of God is the reason for our creation, so it is our ultimate destination: to be gathered into God’s love, and the joy of fullness of life in him for ever.

So how do we live in this love, when there are so many distractions, so many competing claims to truth, so many decisions to be made and choices to take.  Jesus says today, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

In other words, ‘All you need is love,’ yes: but if we are truly to know what love is, we need to find our home in Jesus, be rooted in his teachings, follow joyfully his commands; and, ultimately, to find this love so deeply woven into our life together that we too would be willing to lay ourselves down for others in love.

The Church that Christ left behind, imperfect though it is, is the place where we learn how to abide together in that love.  All her rules and traditions and rituals – the kind of things the Beatles would’ve liked to do away with – they are all there to help form us in the love of Christ, which is the love of God.

The sacraments are where we discover what it means to live in friendship with Christ – not as servants, but friends – sharing in the selfless and creative love of the Trinity.

So may we seek to renew ourselves in the way of love that Jesus calls us to.  As we near the end of our Easter season and approach the long months of Ordinary Time, may we use that time to discern how to make love the new ‘ordinary’ of our lives.

Love that is selfless, abiding, joyful, sacrificial.  That love is all we need.  Amen.