“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)
It is now five weeks ago since we celebrated Easter. Let us ask ourselves: “Has anything changed in me since Easter day?” In other words, as today’s opening prayer puts it, “Am I bearing many fruits as I ought to?” On the second Sunday of Easter, we reflected on the forgiveness and mercy displayed by Jesus. Am I more forgiving of others now? On the third Sunday of Easter, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Do I love Jesus more than the things of this world? On the fourth Sunday of Easter, Jesus, the Good Shepherd said: “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.” Can I say I am a true sheep of Christ?
Today, being the fifth Sunday of Easter, our Gospel passage takes us back to Holy Thursday night. Jesus is at the table with His disciples having the Last Supper meal. Jesus announces with pain in his heart that one of His disciples would betray Him. They were sad and one by one they asked Jesus, “Is it I, Master?” Judas Iscariot, knowing what he was planning to do joined in the chorus, “Is it I, Master?” Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to him saying: “what you are going to do, do quickly.” Judas ate the bread and went out determined to proceed with his plan to sell Jesus.
One would have expected Jesus to become angry since He knew what Judas was going to do but Jesus preferred to consider the glory that was after the cross. Jesus went on to say: “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). This brings us to our lessons for today:
1. What is “New” about this Command?
When Jesus was asked to summarize the ten commandments, He said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, Cf. Matthew 22:37-40 & Mark 12:29-31). Take note, Jesus said, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ but now Jesus is saying, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ While the previous commandment depends on yourself, this new commandment is based on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us. The newness of this commandment is that even if you don’t love yourself, you should try to love others by sacrificing for them.
2. When we Love like Jesus, God Dwells in our Midst.
In today’s second reading, we hear John speak of a new heaven and a new earth. The hallmark of this new heaven and new earth is God dwelling in the midst of men. Then there shall be no more tears, no more pain or sorrow, no more death or mourning. In his first letter, this same John writes: “No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12). The new heaven and the new earth come into play once we love one another as Jesus himself loved us. Imagine a world where everyone is willing to sacrifice for the good of the other; would our news headlines be filled with all these sad events?
3. Our Ability to Love like Jesus Makes us His Disciples.
In the last line of today’s Gospel passage, Jesus said: “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34). This simply means without this sacrificial love for one another, there is no way the world would know that we are disciples of Jesus. The trademark of a true Christian is love.
Jesus noted: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32-36)
From the above statement of Jesus, we can see that at the heart of loving like Christ is forgiveness. We can only say we have loved like Christ when we are able to pray like Christ on the Cross: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). No matter what anyone has done to you, it can never be greater than the power of love. A Christian who cannot forgive cannot love.
4. To Love Like Christ, We Must See Christ in Others.
In today’s first reading, the mention is made of several towns Paul and Barnabas visited strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. One unique thing about these towns mentioned in this passage is that they were not traditionally Jewish towns.
In fact, our first reading today ends by saying: “when they arrived, they gathered the Church together and declared all that God had done with them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” What was behind the drive of Paul and Barnabas? What propelled them to visit these Gentile towns and speak with strangers? One simple answer is Love; the love that does not discriminate; the love that is able to see Christ in everyone regardless of tribe, colour or language. Any love that is trade by barter, any love that only gives in expectation of getting back, any love that does not have Christ as its centre is fake love.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to love like you and not like the world does. Amen
Bible Study: Acts 14:21-27, Ps. 145:8-13a, Rev. 21:1-5, John 13:31-33,34-35)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu