Second Sunday of Luke
2 Corinthians 4:6–15
The Lord says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And as we know, all of God’s commandments are summarised in these two: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–39).
As we have heard over the course of the last three Sundays — the Sundays before and after the Exaltation of the Cross, and the feast of St John the Theologian last Sunday — the perfect image and expression of God’s love is the Cross of Christ; in other words, love consists of and is expressed through sacrifice, giving and self-emptying.
This is also the message of today’s Gospel reading. We often hear and see various encouraging messages — especially on social media — which say things like, “I will no longer waste my time on those who don’t have time for me”, “I done with showing respect to those who don’t respect me”, “Why should I help those who wouldn’t help me?”, “Love should be reciprocal”… and below you see hundreds of ‘likes’ from people saying ‘Well done, well done’ (cf. Psalm 69:3).
These are the wise words of the world. However, the Lord today says something that is not just different, but entirely opposed to the world’s understanding of fairness. We are to love even our enemies, to help, sacrifice, give and lend, without expecting any kind of reciprocity. This is love. The other thing is not love, it’s a transaction; and, as the Lord says, even sinners have this worldly, transactional form of love for one another.
Proof that someone is a Christian, that someone loves Christ, is a way of life that embodies this genuine sacrificial love, which constitutes the keeping of his commandments.
And these words of the Lord, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”, describe something that even the world knows instinctively. When we say that we are Christian, that we believe in God and love Christ, but live and act and love just like the world does, why should anyone listen to us? If our love for Christ isn’t manifest in our actions, what is it we’re inviting others to? If our Christian faith and our life in the Church hasn’t changed us as people, where are others supposed to see the transformative power of God?
We should remember that, in the first centuries of Christianity, the great influx of people who entered the Church didn’t come on account of preaching or of miracles, but because they saw in the lives of the Christians a supernatural way of living, a supernatural love, humility, honesty, purity, and most of all, an unshakable faith that had allowed them to overcome even the fear of death.
This is what St Paul is talking about in today’s Epistle reading: “Let there be light to shine out of darkness … We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the preeminence of the power may be of God, and not from us. In every way we are afflicted, but not straitened; we are at a loss, but not utterly at a loss; persecuted, but not abandoned; cast down, but not destroyed—always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:6–11). In other words, we have a faith and inner strength that could come from nowhere else but from God.
When we have this kind of faith, then our word has authority: “‘I believed, wherefore I spoke’, we also believe, and therefore speak” (v. 13).
If we at times feel sorrow or despair when we see the faithlessness and the state of the world around us, let us remember that we are to blame for that state. But this thought is not just a form of self-criticism, but should also give us encouragement. Because, if I am responsible, that means I am also in a position to do something about it! So let us keep the commandments of God, the commandments of the Crucified one, which is love, so “that the grace, which abounded through [you], might cause the giving of thanks to abound more to the glory of God” (v.15). Amen.
Fr Kristian Akselberg