“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Gospel according to John)
Love one another; this is the new commandment that Jesus gave to the Apostles, as recorded by John the Evangelist, on that night before his Passion, death and resurrection. This theme of love, loving one another, we see throughout all of the Gospels. Jesus expresses this commandment in different ways in the Good News as written by Mark, Matthew, and Luke. The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. And we are to love one another as we love ourselves. But what does Jesus mean when he commands us to love one another. Sometimes when we hear the word “love,” we have images of little hearts floating around lovers. We think of spouses being kind to one another; parents being nice to their children; brothers and sisters being kind to one another. Everything is all very nice and sweet, like in a movie we see on the Hallmark Channel.
Let me remind us all again of what Jesus said: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Look at the crucifix! “As I have loved you...” Jesus loved us so much that emptied himself totally for our sake, was willing to suffer and die for us, so that we can be free from the power of sin and death. He, who is the Messiah, the Son of God, was willing to become a servant for all, healing the sick, freeing those possessed by evil, welcoming and caring for the outcast.
It is His example that we are to follow. Whenever, wherever the opportunity presents itself, we must be ready to feed the hungry, care for the sick, welcome the stranger. And our love is not just restricted to members of our family, our parish, our faith, or the “nice people.” Our love must be given to those whom we are uncomfortable with; the ones we would have called strange. Love must be given to those who hate us, are unkind to us. We are called to love them just as strongly as our families and friends.
Now to love as Jesus expects us to love a challenge! But it is not impossible, we see in the lives of the saints, persons who have been able to love others totally. Francis of Assisi lived among lepers, cleaning and bandaging their wounds, as did Damian of Molokai, Theresa of Calcutta lived among the sick and dying, giving them love and comfort. Dorothy Day lived among the poor, the addicts, the alcoholics, the disturbed of the streets of New York, and welcomed them all. And there are many more out there and in our midst, in big ways and small, who love others as Christ loves us. But I will be the first to admit, it is a challenge, and we are not all going to be able to succeed keeping this commandment. In fact at times it may seem impossible, but that is when we turn to Him who is the source of all love, Jesus. We seek inspiration from Him through His words in Scripture. We gain strength from Him when we receive Him through the Eucharist. He will help us overcome our weaknesses; give us the courage to reach out to others, in love.
And when we love as Jesus has loved us, we will be evangelizers to the world. When we love as Jesus loves us, we will be living the Good News.