All of us here make prayers of petition. We ask for what we need: exams, relationships, money worries, work, whatever it is, we all ask God for help and expect to be answered and rightly so since God has told us that we should ask him for what we need. Jesus even says it in this Gospel reading: “…and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name,” but if you go back a few lines he also says something else. The Lord says, “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love… and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name.” God asks us to keep his commandments first, because that’s how it is in any relationship. You ask someone you love for something and you know that they will do their best to give it to you, because of your love for each other, but the love for each other is there first. You don’t ask favors from complete strangers, at least not often. You ask people you love.
Love brings with it obedience and faithfulness. A couple who love each other try to obey each other and try to be faithful to each other and then their love grows and as the love grows they know they can rely on each other for what they need. Our love for God is just the same. The more we come to know God the more we know that we can rely on him for what we need, because it’s based on a loving relationship, with a real person, the person of Jesus. We don’t just believe in a thing, but a person, but we can’t expect to demand our needs from God if we are not willing to do as he asks. What kind of a relationship would that be? It would be just one person using the other.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In other words this is how we show God that we love him, by trying to be obedient to him. What are his commandments? Love God, respect his name, keep Sunday holy, honor you parents, don’t kill, steal, don’t commit adultery or lie. If we aren’t prepared to keep these commandments of God, can we still expect him to give us what we ask? Would you expect your husband or wife, or someone you love, to do things for you, if you refused to do what they asked you? Of course not.
The important thing to remember is this: God loves us first and that is where we get our strength from, to do as he asks us. What we have to do is to open our hearts. You may find yourself saying “It’s very hard to keep the commandments. It’s very hard to try and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s very hard not to shop on Sundays, and not to use the Lord’s name as a swear word. It’s not realistic.”
You’re right, it is practically impossible to live as God asks, if you rely on your own strength, but we are not expected to. We rely on God’s strength for these things. It’s called grace and that’s what makes us different. I could not live as a celibate man by my own strength? I rely on God’s help every day. We cannot say it’s too hard, because we have God’s strength to help us. But how do we get this help, this grace? We get it from prayer. There are 24 hours in a day, no one can say they can’t spare 20 minutes for God. If you do, it just means you have no interest, no love for God. We get it from fasting, making sacrifices. Lent isn’t the only time to fast. One day a week we can eat less, or don’t watch TV, or give up something you like, until it hurts. We get this strength especially from the Eucharist. Receive Jesus often if you want to grow in the spirit. We get it through spending time with Jesus in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We get it through confession, when we are healed of our sins.
God constantly offers us this strength, but we have to open our hearts to him. Then you will find a strength that you didn’t know existed; strength to love God, strength to keep his commandments, strength to love other people. We turn to God first to receive from him, then we can live as he asks.
‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.’