Looking back over my years as a Deacon, I am humbly grateful to have walked with many parishioners on the sacred journey toward death. Death elicits last words. These may be simply the repetition of the Lord’s Prayer, or they may be profound words of encouragement for family and friends. One thing is for sure; the last words are generally heartfelt and honest. They flow from authentic feelings and ruminations.
Consider Jesus’ last words to His disciples before his earthly death. They abounded in love, for Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father whose very essence is love. Jesus’ last words were so full of love they offered life and hope and inspired fearless zeal in the apostles, allowing the Christian faith to blossom and grow throughout the ages. Jesus’ last words continue to offer us life and hope to this day.
In Sunday’s gospel (John 14:15-21), Jesus’ voice resonates with some of his powerful last words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” Jesus will no longer be present physically, but followers will continue to be enjoined in a relationship of love. We demonstrate our love for Him by not only receiving His love but by keeping His commandment to love, loving God, and our neighbor. Jesus is essentially offering the disciples and us the possibility of a new life; a relationship of intimacy in which we are organically bound into mutual love between God and all humanity. On our own we cannot attain to this ideal. Jesus promises that the Father will send us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with us always to lead us in the way of love.
Jesus’ physical departure does not leave us empty and meaningless but with a greater significance and purpose; that of growing and living into an intimate love relationship, for He is love eternally. We grow in love for Him then love as He loves. In this way, we become a community of lovers in fellowship with the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When we speak of growing in love, we do not speak of emotions, but of developing a new vision; the vision of Christ. It is often difficult to love but as we grow in intentionally loving Christ we strive to see as He sees and do as He does. Developing Christ’s vision, Christ’s way of seeing, we remind ourselves that God created all persons in God’s own image, and each is therefore worthy of love, not condemnation. Christ saw the thief on the cross as worthy of His loving grace. Christ saw His persecutors as worthy of His intercession for their forgiveness. Love then engages our self-will: “The effective willing of the good of the other and the courage to think and act to make that good happen.” Our eternally loving God is the ground of our capacity to love, and God is the reason others can love us. Love is the bond created by God that will draw all of humanity into a new heaven and new earth, an exalted fellowship of praise and adoration to our ever-loving Lord.
Prayer: Eternally Loving Father, thank you for loving each of us. So often we fail to love you. Forgive us, Lord, by your grace. May Your Holy Spirit lead and guide us in the way of love, that we may love you above all else, then love ourselves and our neighbors. Amen