This phrase in my title came up twice within the span of a few hours in two different places in my reading and meditation. The first was on Saturday night as I was reading and praying the meditation for the day from a book of meditations on the Passion of Jesus. The second came a few short hours later just after midnight as I was keeping my hour with Jesus in my parish adoration chapel. I picked up my Magnificat and was reading the meditation for the day written by Fr, Jean Baptiste Saint~Jure, a seventeenth century French Jesuit priest, and there the phrase appeared again.
When things like this happen, I tend to pay attention since I get the feeling God is trying to tell me something.
Viewed with the eyes and ears of the world, this phrase using the word obligation, can seem to have a very negative connotation. The world tells us we should not feel obligated to much, if anything at all. A sort of "if it feels right, do it" attitude. However, seen and heard with the eyes and ears of faith, this phrase, and especially the word obligation, take on a softer and gentler meaning.
In the face of all that Jesus endured and suffered for us, we as Christians do have an obligation to love Him, but at the same time Jesus never forces His love on anyone, nor does He force them to love Him in return. This spiritual obligation is one of acceptance. Once we accept Jesus, and His love for us, most dramatically demonstrated through His Passion and Death, we feel a natural and willing obligation to love Him.
This obligation to love Jesus is also seen in today's Gospel. Over the next four Sundays, we will hear from St John's Bread of Life Discourse in Chapter 6 of his Gospel. The passage for this Sunday comes soon after Jesus has fed the multitude. The crowd once again follows Jesus, and Jesus recognizes why they were seeking Him~not for the signs He manifested, but because they were fed, physically with the loaves and fishes.
As we read today's passage, we can see Jesus preparing the people to hear those words that they will find difficult, that His Flesh is the true food, and His Blood true drink. But for right now, He simply tells them that He is the Bread of Life, and whoever comes to Him will never hunger, and whoever believes in Him, will never thirst. I imagine they felt He was speaking in symbols and parables. We know He was not. His Apostles back then knew He was not. If the people in that crowd truly believed Jesus was who He said He was, their hearts would have felt that natural obligation to love Him. I am sure some did, but many did not.
The same holds true for us today. Jesus' message about Himself has not changed. He still tells us that He is the Bread of Life. Those who believe the true and real meaning of His words know and are happy to fulfill their obligation to love Him. It is fulfilled every time we receive Him with love and devotion in Holy Communion, and in every visit we make to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
By the end of this discourse of St John we will see many walk away from Jesus because they felt they were being forced to believe something their hearts and minds could not accept or understand. Many have walked away from Jesus today for much the same reason.
When we believe like the Apostles did, that Jesus has the words of eternal life, then truly to who else would we want to go. With the eyes and ears of faith, this obligation to love Jesus becomes a gift~ His to us, and ours in return to Him.