Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Love in Deed and Truth: Does God keep His word?

"Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us." JN 15:1-8

The first thought that occurred to me while reading this paragraph: "My heart does not condemn me; I have confidence in God; nevertheless, I do not receive from Him whatever I ask." Therefore, I knew I had to look closer, attempt to discern what the apostle was conveying to his readers.

Why do we "receive from Him whatever we ask"? Not because "our hearts do not condemn us," not because "we have confidence in God," but because we "do what pleases Him." How do we know we please Him? "Because we keep His commandments." What commandments? "We should believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us," "not in word or speech, but in deed and truth." Because we "love not in word or speech but in deed and truth...we shall knew that we belong to the truth. Then, in whatever our hearts condemn, we will be reassured because of this love in deed and truth, "for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything."

Man justifies himself. I have never met the person who says, "I have an evil heart." Every man thinks that he has a good heart. This is why he says, "God knows my heart." However, God says through the Prophet, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is desperately sick: who can know it?" People think it will be good when God judges because God knows the heart." We should be fearful because God does know the heart.

However, we can be reassured when our hearts (minds) condemn us because we love our neighbor in deed and truth. We can only love in deed and truth when we "believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ." Now, the apostle does not say only "believe in His Son, Jesus Christ," but "in His name." What is this "in His name"? To keep it succinct: The Nicene Creed.

Of course, the thought occurs, "I don't know that I love in deed and truth sufficiently." This is our hearts trying to condemn us. The apostle calls his readers "children." We are not fully mature. We have to take baby steps, one foot at a time. The confessional is a place of healing--progressive healing many times. We have to grow. The confessional and the Eucharist are two Sacraments which produces much growth. The confessional is not only a placed to get sins absolved; it is a place of mercy, where Christ not only forgives but stands beside us, weeping with us, aiding us. Forgiveness by itself is little good if there is no mercy to change us into the image of the One forgiving.

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples'.”
He takes away every branch in Him that does not bear fruit. Think about that. The branch is in Him; nevertheless, it is taken away, cut off, because it does not bear fruit. What fruit? "Love in deed and truth." How do we remain in Him? Because we already believe in the name of Jesus Christ, we remain by loving in deed and truth. God is love. If we are His children, born again in Baptism, we are love. This love is not for material things, for making a name for ourselves, or anything else that the "natural" person desires; this love is a desire that every person be the image of Christ, especially every Catholic. What good is the arm without the rest of the body? Do not think of yourself only! You are part of a Body! Think of the Body! "If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want"--which will be for the good of the entire Body--"and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

I recall reading a statement from a man. He said that he prayed for the Church but things got worse. I also recall that we were called upon to pray about the HHS mandate. It was not decided in our favor. Is God really in control? Does He keep His word that "ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you"? On the face of it, the man is right. But is he? The Catholic Church does not ask God to have an issue be determined this way or that; the Catholic Church holds the issue up to God, asking Him to do what is best for the Church. When the Church is persecuted, it is not because the Church asked God that we be persecuted; the Church does not even pray that the persecution be stopped. The Church prays that God will be merciful, standing in front of us, behind us, and beside us, giving us wisdom and strengthening us to persevere. In this way, we will see His deliverance.

God loves in deed and truth; the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ loves in deed and truth. Let us observe them and do likewise, taking baby steps in order that we do not become overwhelmed and give up. God bears fruit; the Catholic Church bears fruit. By the grace of God, we will produce fruit also--because we are baptized into Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church and are obedient.
-- Tommy Turner