In our Gospel reading, Jesus, at the Last Supper with His Apostles, says to them, after Judas has left, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” As I was reflecting on this, I was drawn back to what I reflected on earlier in the liturgical year when the Gospel reading had Jesus speak of the Golden Rule. But in this Easter season, both our Gospel reading and our second reading from Revelation refer to what is “new.” Was there a new way to look at Jesus’ words?
I don’t think I can claim this as new, but I thought about how does Jesus love us? And besides the words “unconditionally,” and “without strings attached,” the words that came to mind was “more than we deserve.” Jesus loves us more than we deserve!
Now I know that there is danger in using words such as these. One reaction can be that we look at ourselves with such low regard that we can’t accept this incredible love from Jesus. Another reaction is to do whatever we want, no matter the consequences to others because of our confidence in God’s love for us. And yet another reaction is to grudgingly tolerate others while at the same time considering them beneath us. If we listen to Jesus’ commandment, though, we realize that neither of these responses is what Jesus wants.
Let’s look at our response when we receive some indication of how God loves us. Have you ever been the beneficiary of what is commonly called a “random act of kindness?” I have. And what is our response? Is it not joy and gratitude? That is how we can respond to God’s love for us in Jesus Christ at all times: with joy and gratitude! We don’t have to spend our energy trying to prove to ourselves and everyone else why we deserve this love! We just need to accept it, and then give it to others.
How would it be if we loved without any calculation of whether the other person deserved it or not? Now, again, I’m not talking about staying in an abusive relationship, or ignoring injustice. But Jesus did speak about loving one’s enemies, as He did. In an abusive relationship, we may not have anything to do with the person again, but we can still try to love them in the way Jesus is talking about. Similarly, when we work for justice and peace, we can remember that God loves even the ones who perpetrate the injustice, and that working for justice and peace can be for their benefit as well as for ours.
But if we were to love others more than they deserved, as Jesus loves us, remember, would that not be our way of participating in that great vision we hear from our reading from Revelation? The author writes: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” We don’t need to destroy things or people in order to help the “old order” pass away. We need to love as Jesus loves!
May God wipe every tear from our eyes. May we accept, in joy and gratitude, God’s love for us, which goes beyond what we can earn or deserve. And in the hope and joy of Easter, may we heed Jesus’ commandment to love one another as He loves us.
In the Risen Christ,
Fr. Phil, CP