Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Love One Another As I have Loved You

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

“I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” For many of us, the commandment of love has become so familiar to us that we may fail to recognize its ‘newness.’ What is so new about this commandment?

The commandment to love found in the Gospel of John is very different from the commandment to love found in the other gospels. In the gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, the gospel writers have Jesus repeat the core teaching of the Old Testament covenant that is to love of God and love our neighbor as ourselves. The standard or comparison made there is that our love for neighbor must correspond to our love for ourselves.

But in the gospel of John, we are commanded by Jesus to love one another as he, Jesus, has loved us. Self-love no longer becomes the criteria but Jesus’ love for us. In the first letter of St. John, where he speaks so much of love and where he names God as Love, we find these beautiful words “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10) Our weak, limited, imperfect and inadequate ‘love’ for ourselves no longer becomes the standard by which we should love others but rather Jesus’ love for us. Only God loves perfectly because God is LOVE himself! And this is the love of God – that he is prepared to become man, suffer and die for us. This is the love of God, that he is prepared to become one of us, to share our pains and sorrows, to experience our sufferings and give us hope and encouragement in the midst of all these. This is the love of God – that he will “wipe away all tears from (our) eyes”, destroy death and sadness. This is the love of God – that he will make all things new.

Love must therefore be the mark of our discipleship. “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are (Christ’s) disciples.”

But we realize that we will always fall short of this high standard. We will never reach this perfect standard precisely because we are not God. And that is why we must continue to support, encourage and pray for each other. We must follow the examples of Paul and Barnabas, who in the first reading “put fresh hearts into the disciples.”

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