Love As Jesus Loved

Many times the last thing a person says before he or she is dying takes on a very special significance. It is as if the very essence of that individual is somehow summed up and compacted into a single message.

bowl clothI imagine this is how the earliest disciples felt about the words that are in our reading of the day. They were all at table with Jesus, and the impending crisis that would take his life loomed ahead of them inescapably. And then came those final, poignant words, “A new commandment I give to you; love one another. As I have loved you, you are to love one another.” This will become your unique signature in the world, the way folks will sense your true identity, your essence. This will be your ultimate reason for being.

How do we love as Jesus loved? St. Augustine has given us two clues to such a question. He once observed that Jesus loved each one he had ever met as if there were none other in all the world to love. In other words, Jesus radically individualized the affection he acted out toward others. Instead of never seeing the trees for the forest, as the old adage goes, Jesus reversed that process and never failed to focus on the particular and the unique in each human being. This represents an extraordinary commitment and discipline, especially because, even in Jesus’ day, he came in contact with many, many people and, therefore, must have found it tempting to lump people together in categories, in classes, and to allow the forest mentality to blind him to the genuine uniqueness of each human being.
I’ve always loved the little story about the boy who’s trying to learn the Lord’s Prayer, and one night as he knelt by his bed, these words came out:
Our Father, who are in heaven
How do you know my name?
Such individualized affection will always remain a mystery to us mortals, and at the same time, let us never forget we’re made in the image of that extraordinary love. And doing what Jesus did in loving each one he ever met as if there were none other in all the world is at least an ideal toward which we can reach even if it always remains utterly beyond our complete grasp.
The second clue St. Augustine offers is that Jesus loved all as he loved each. The way he loved was not only individualized, but it was also incredibly universal.
We are able to love as Jesus did only because of the power and grace which come from our first being loved by God. By our own self-sacrificing love, we are the presence of the risen Christ for others. Christian living is to love as Jesus loved, to be the risen Christ for others.

What should we do?

Being cooped up in the house as a child was more challenging to my mother than to my brother, sister and me. We kept chanting, “What should we do?” and my mother had to stop her work and be an activities director! Sometimes, my dad would pull a tube out of our TV and we cried, “What should we do?”  He forced us to find something to do inside that was as interesting and as wide open as the outdoors. “What should we do?” has a set of expectations – if what we do is to be satisfying, it must fulfill our expectations and involve more than what we are doing right now.

In our Gospel today, the same question is asked.  And John’s answer doesn’t focus on accomplishments, rather, on relationships. The good news preached by John  is that our relationship with others makes visible our relationship with Jesus.

Just like John, our lives are about others. John turns the question into “How shall we be?” We are called to be the presence of Christ in the world.  We are called to be just and loving toward each other.  Or still yet, the question is replaced by “Who shall we be?” We are called to be Christ for each other.

Look At What’s Deep Within Us

My sister and I began a journal of the sayings of our parents- “Wash your hands”, “Eat your vegetables”, “Make your bed!” “Stop picking on your little sister!” These are common orders we heard growing up. From where do these rules come and to what are they directed? We decided they were rules to protect our well-being and a healthy relationship within the family.

Religious commands are rooted in common behaviors that promote well-being and healthy relationships. In our Gospel, the ritual traditions were not connected to the covenant! Jesus called the Jewish community back to right attitudes.

Our Gospel challenges us to take a serious look at where our hearts lie and why do we do what we do. Do our behaviors arise from hearts turned to God?

I Am the Bread of Life

Last Sunday, the Israelites were grumbling about food; this Sunday the crowd is grumbling about who Jesus says he is. At least today, the grumbling is about what is really important – the identity of Jesus and how we gain eternal life! The surprise this Sunday is how persistent God is in bringing us to new and eternal life. Jesus persists in revealing himself as the bread sent by God to nourish us for our journey to eternal life. And it is not without cost. For Jesus it is the cross. For us it is the bread of suffering. To eat of this bread is to take upon ourselves a life of self-giving. That is why the Gospel is so difficult. We are planted firmly on this good earth – we are to give our very self for the life of the world through the good we do every day for others. No wonder the murmuring.

Love One Another as I Have Loved You

We too readily read that simplistically, romantically. But this command from Jesus contains the most important challenge of a Christian’s life – to love those who hate us; to love those whom we don’t like. What about the people whom we avoid and those who avoid us? What about those towards whom we feel resentment – Am I to love them?

If we can love them, we are real lovers.

The one thing Jesus asks of us is to love our neighbor. How would you rate this assignment on a difficulty scale from 1-10?