Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us in the way of loving others with God’s love: “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”
Much hinges on that little word “remain”—menein in the Greek—which John uses frequently in his Gospel. God’s love is given unconditionally as a grace, but remaining in that love is indeed a matter of keeping certain commandments.
Here is how it works: God’s love can truly dwell in us and become our “possession” only in the measure that we give it away. If we resist it or try to cling to it, it will never work its way into our own hearts, bodies, and minds. But if we give it away as an act of love, then we get more of it, entering into a delightful stream of grace. If you give away the divine love, then it “remains” in you.
This is the great Catholic doctrine of grace and the cooperation with grace. We don’t drive a great wedge between law and grace, as some of the Reformers did. Rather, we say that law and commandment allow us to participate in the love that God is. It’s a play, if you want, of both conditional and unconditional love. And it’s precisely why we can grow in love.