The wedding Lectionary offers to couples three choices from Jesus’ Last Supper discourse in John’s Gospel, chapters 13 through 17. We’ll take a look at two of these choices, as they overlap with John 15:12’s statement, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you”
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
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.
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”
It might be said that lovers hardly need a commandment to do what their affection urges them. But Jesus’ suggestion is to express love with action (v9-11) and to love as he himself loves (vv 13-14), not as other do, or how the couple thinks it should love. Jesus’ love is that of timeless self-sacrifice. While many married couples show and have shown heroic love, even saintly devotion to one another, the Lectionary framers seem to think a reminder is in order. I wouldn’t argue the point.
Scripture scholars often focus on the “abiding” love, translated in the Lectionary passage as “remain.” How does the believer abide or remain in love? How do couples abide, remain, or maintain their love? Jesus would suggest that acting as if one were in love is part of it.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Human beings respond to God incarnate, and they respond to spiritual values such as love when that love is expressed. Simply put, love, when expressed through action, thrives. And love unexpressed often withers on the vine. Love for God is expressed by keeping commandments. Love for a lover thrives when we express that love in concrete, open, and noticeable ways.
Here’s the other reading:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”
The second gospel passage springboards from the “abiding” love of Jesus for us to the encouragement that we love one another as Jesus loved us. This passage is at the physical and religious center of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse. We should not underestimate the importance of that.
When might couples choose one of the John 15 passages? A wedding during Lent or Easter or possibly the Christmas season may be a good liturgical choice. As for the practical connection, I would say either of these passages (possibly both?) would reflect a couple’s awareness of the centrality of self-sacrifice in married love, a couple’s desire or commitment to imitate Christ, or a couple’s commitment to living their faith in and through their married state.
What would any of your thoughts on either or both of these readings be?