An early Church father, Tertullian, noted that Romans, non-believers, would observe the fast-growing community of Jesus’ followers and exclaim, “See how they love one another!” The amazing expression of love among the followers of the Way, had its beginnings in Jesus’ final discourse which He gave when “his hour had come to depart from this world.” This Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Easter, the gospel takes us back to a portion of Jesus’ final discourse (John 13:31-35).
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The commandment to love was not altogether new. In Deuteronomy (6:5) Moses exhorted the people to love the Lord and in Leviticus (19:18) the people were exhorted to love one’s neighbor as oneself. What made Jesus’ commandment new was His clear exhortation for disciples to love “as I have loved you.” Jesus was calling the disciples to embody a supernatural love that was necessary for the spread of the gospel. This exhortation, etched in the disciples’ memories, would serve as a constant reminder to live a life of steadfast, abundant, and love, freely given as Jesus did. Jesus manifested love in His welcoming attitude, His teaching, healing, and feeding. Kindness, compassion, and mercy towards others were the hallmarks of Jesus’ life. But Jesus’ most visible and powerful expression of love was His sacrificial self-offering in full obedience to God, the Father, giving His very life for the salvation of all, a choice that would seem absurd to the world.
The commandment to love like Christ, addressed specifically to the disciples, called them to be knit together in genuine, heartfelt, mutual love. But this love did not flow automatically or naturally. To express genuine, heartfelt love, the disciples’ eyes had first to be opened to the knowledge that Christ’s love excels all love; that He loved us first. As we too come to believe, we grow into a new creation with our lives centered on Jesus’ redeeming love. Zeal to live and love like Christ flows out of the new life. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit propels Christ’s new creation on the journey towards loving more. It was the disciples’ passionate love among each other and their acts and attitudes of love that attracted and successfully spread the good news of Christ’s life-transforming love.
Prayer: Father, we hear your call today to love as you love us. Fill us, O gracious Lord, with the fire of your love that together we, Your Church, may reflect your image and attract others to the good news that to know you is to be given abundant and everlasting life.