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What Is Our Motivation?

Today’s Gospel continues Jesus’ farewell discourse. This is essentially his final instructions before his arrest and subsequent execution and resurrection.

Here he gives the commandment to love one another. This brings us back to the original commandments of love God and neighbor that are in the book of Deuteronomy. Jesus gives us a new take on them so we need to see them in a new light. He says to Apostles he calls them friends and no longer slaves.

Hear this homily as it was delivered from

A slave is obedient to his master but does not have to be loyal to him. Obedience and loyalty are two different things. Here Jesus now calls the Apostles friends. Friends are loyal to each other and their obedience is rooted in their mutual friendship in love.

St. Aelred of Rievaulx said, “Friendship is the greatest form of love.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that all have a call to chastity but it is impossible without friendship. So those who live the single life need also to have a strong friendship in their life. Back to St. Aelred of Rievaulx who taught that the true friends will be in Christ and lead each other to Christ.

So we talk about this change from slave to friendship.

Let us look at it differently. Jesus is also talking a difference in motivation and this is most key.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the law is written on our hearts. What does this mean? The external elements of the law become internal elements. What that breaks down to is forms of motivation.

We have laws that we have to obey. Why do we obey them? If we do not then we have to suffer everything from a fine to imprisonment and even death. Those are external motivations. Without external motivations, we may disregard the law and do what is considered wrong in our society. Many explain that they do not break the law because of the deterrent of the long arm of the law.

We see that in Church when people do things out of fear of the deterrent—ending up in Hell for example. The deterrent is an external motivation. Once the law is written on our hearts it becomes an internal motivation and what motivates us is love of God and neighbor. Now Christ calls our motivation to be what pleases God and neighbor. So it is no longer a case of you must do this or else, it is rather this is what do you do to please God and neighbor.

If you think of a love relationship where one person is seeking to please the other. Other times the relationship changes and those in it need to be patient with each other but their patience is a part of their love for each other.

Love is the basis of the relationship that is the motivating factor. This is what Jesus calls us to do and this is what we are called to do with our neighbor. So our actions have a love motivation.

We avoid sin because we do not want to separate ourselves from God.

Go to your act of contrition and I know that there are several versions. However, you will see elements such as avoiding sin out of fear of the pains of Hell but what is most important is because they damage the love relationship between us and God. The same happens between two people who again when one hurts the other there is a reconciliation because of the fear of loss of that love. That same love becomes a motivator.

Now if we are truly called to live our Christian faith then that love must be our motivator and that is why prayer is important. The most important way to share our love with God is to pray and to allow the fruit of our prayer enter into our action with others.

However, in our unique time in the United States, we as Catholics have an even stronger call to live that call. Our country's cultural leaders are rejecting Christianity but maybe because they do not see that love in action to the level to which our faith speaks to them.

The early church had its difficulties but it was also through the intense love of God and neighbor that it changed people’s lives. We too have a call to live that same need to love God and neighbor and in the next few years, I believe we will be called to a higher standard of it.

We need to allow that mandate to transform us as it transformed the Apostles. We need to allow those words of Jesus today to penetrate us so that we live them in ways differently than many expect.

That kind of love also calls for a sacrifice for God and neighbor. We must not just do the nice thing or the right thing for another. Jesus did not do the nice thing, he did the loving thing for God and neighbor mostly loving those who were politically correct not to love.

One of the signs of lack of love is fear and anytime we have fear then we know that is a place that lacks love. That may be a place that needs the healing touch of the Holy Spirit or some other form of healing but it clearly is a place that needs healing.

Fear is also a motivator against others. When we choose to take the fear road we become divided from ourselves. Much of the problems in our society today are rooted in a fear causing a lack of love. Where there is no love that we must have recourse to law and the law instead becomes enslaving as it is an external motivator. We must live in a place where the motivator is internal in a new form of love that is radical in its approach and roots itself in love of God and neighbor.

Jesus shows us how to seek the right motivation by telling us to love God and neighbor.


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