“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” This intimate communion in love is what Jesus desires for each one of us. For this reason he became incarnate, died, rose, and ascended to the Father, so that we could know this love and live in union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The verb to remain, according to a standard dictionary, means to stay in the same place or with the same person or group. We remain in the church until after the blessing. We remain members of the family even when we are away from home. It can also refer to what perseveres or is left behind. The victor in a fight remains standing. Leftovers remain after a meal. The hosts of a party remain after all the guests leave.

How do we remain in God and God in us? St. John explains in the second reading: “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.” This seems so simple! By an act of faith that Jesus is the Son of God, we have God remaining in us and we remain in God. Yet this is not a once-and-for-all statement, as if we can say, “Jesus is Lord,” and then go on with life as usual. No, the first reading shows us that our precious union with God can be broken, as in the tragic case of Judas. Judas “turned away” from the apostolic ministry “to go to his own place.” He chose not to remain in God. He chose to depart from Jesus and follow him no more.

We cannot remain in God on our own power. In his great mercy and love for us, “he has given us of his Spirit.” This is how we can remain in God: by cooperating with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ beautiful prayer to the Father in today’s Gospel, he lets us know that while we remain in God we do not belong to the world. In the eyes of the world, it is madness to remain in God and remain in his love. “The world” here stands for the attitude that opposes God. This interior stance is all about making your own way in life, acquiring many things, and enjoying every pleasure. It is about getting more and more of everything now – wealth, possessions, and experiences. The part that is missing in this endless quest to acquire is a satisfying conclusion. In the world we are always left unsatisfied because we are trying to fill the “space” within us with merely transitory things. This “space” can only be filled by God himself, the God who is Love. There are many good things in creation, but if we let them lead us away from God, they are no more than vain enticements and distractions.

To “remain in God” may sound like a stagnant existence, with no change or growth, but this false impression is based on our too-limited ideas about “remaining.” To “remain in school” implies continuing our education, not stagnating. To “remain the best in the league” or to “remain way ahead of the competition” is not boring! This positive way of thinking of remaining applies here: “if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.” Remaining in love means being brought to perfection! What will that look like for each one of us? We do not fully know: “it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2). This is our hope: that his love will be brought to perfection in each one of us and we will reflect the glory of God in beautifully unique ways – in as many ways as there are people!

When have I decided not to remain in God and turned away from him? Why do I fill my “space” with transitory things and not with God himself? Why do I allow the good things in creation to distract me from God?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.