There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear;
for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears
has not reached perfection in love. We love because he
first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their
brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a
brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God
whom they have not seen.
I John 4 ~ epistle for the Fifth Sunday of Eastertide [Year B, RCL]
[ The full texts of the Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Eastertide can be found at: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Easter/BEaster5_RCL.html ]
The central image of the Gospel this Sunday is of God as the “Vinedresser/Vine Planter”, Jesus as the Vine, and those who follow Jesus as the similar Branches. As always, the Gospel is about Life. God is Life; Jesus - called in the Collect [“gathering prayer”] the Way, Truth, and Life - is a powerful mythical reminder that “Divinity” and “Humanity” are a bonded unity … and please remember that so many of the great spiritual paths in human history have, in their own mythologies, expressed this insight. Jesus, in our Christian mythology, lived this Path … of Compassion, Respect, Kindness, of willingness to die to self in order to expand the one life of All … all aimed at calling every human being to become fully human by following the Path - Way, Truth, Life - that leads to Life.
I am grateful that the developers of the Lectionary choose I John for this Easter season. I John delves into the heart of Love … because Love lies at the heart of the Path … of Way, Truth, Life. Jesus says clearly that God is Love, and He encapsulates all of His teaching in the one “commandment”: “Love one another as I have loved you”. As I have often said, this “commandment” of Jesus defines for us our Life’s journey, i.e., to explore the meaning of Love.
The “Vine” … represented by Jesus, grows in the soil of the hearts, minds, and spirits of every human being … tended lovingly by the Source of all Life, that great Mystery we call God. Indeed, the Vine cannot grow lest it be in the soil of our soul … and our “soul” is a unitive fusion of our mortal flesh and our eternal spirit. The “Soul” is tended, just like any plant of Mother Nature, for fruitfulness and sweetness and nourishment. Every human life is pruned by Life’s experience. “Pruning” is a description of the awakening of the Heart, of the cleansing of the heart, of the freeing of the heart to bloom and erupt in beauty.
When we can “love God” with abandon, then we have reached the stage of union with Life. The simple test of our stage on this Path is, Are we unafraid? Can we not hate our brothers and sisters? "
To love God and hate your neighbour is to hate your own very Self.
Then we can only desperately seek healing.