Readings for Today
In all the homilies on this gospel reading, I cannot remember hearing any mention of the conditionals included. "If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love" and "You are my friends if you do what I command you." We get assurances that God is our friend, that He will put up with our abuse, just as any good friend does, and that He is a kindly, indulgent old man who just wants us to be happy. And the implication is that being wanton children is what will make us happy.
But these "ifs" remain. Is God's love inconstant? God's love for us stands steady, but we do not, and Jesus sees this. It says elsewhere that Jesus knew men's hearts, and "he needed no one to tell him about human nature." His love is constant, but we can and do wander out into the cold. We freely choose to not remain, to go our own way and congratulate ourselves on it. We expect God to accept our behavior even though we have these "ifs." This is consistent with other areas of human behavior: buying things we need not, with money we have not. Our desire for a thing overrides all sense, ignoring our lack of money, time, discipline, and even ignoring our experience, so that we make the same stupid mistakes repeatedly. We want the perceived benefits but are shocked to learn the price.
Quite possibly, we do not believe at all. The words of Jesus are full of promises, and perhaps we do not believe him. This would explain why we continue to go our own way and ignore the teachings of the Gospel, and comfort ourselves (with help from the clergy) that all is forgiven or that we are not all that bad. As a side note, it is not that forgiveness is not real, but it requires repentance. We justify ourselves and grant absolution to ourselves.
These "ifs" are a challenge. Can we see that a response is required, and that we cannot expect to live in a love that we have rejected?