Sunday, May 19
Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 13:31-33A, 34-35
When Judas had left them, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him,
God will also glorify him in himself,
and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
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.”
This Gospel might be a good time to reflect on Jesus’ declaration to his disciples, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” The comment may seem innocuous enough to many of us if we simply apply only our own notion of love to his statement, but Jesus intended much more than our 21st century over-simplified romantic view of the word “Love.”
Many of us may reduce love to a feeling, an emotion, and too often it is diminished to what we learned from reading novels, watching television, or engaging in social media. Love becomes limited from our own personal experience. This Gospel requires us to expand on our narrow definition. Clearly, Jesus himself is the meaning of love as example to us. This goes way beyond the idea of feelings or emotion and replaces it with definitive action. Limiting love to simply feelings and emotions allows us to define the scope under our own terms and conditions rather than Jesus’ intent. By reducing love to just a personal “thing,” we can easily reject that Jesus’ love requires us to be in community and to serve (love) each other. That may be one reason why so many of our youth reject formal religion and yet hunger for spirituality. One way many do this is to experiment using new age tactics in forming their own personal spirituality such as yoga, Buddhism, being the best version of yourself, and being a good person. This can often isolate themselves from the world and assume their experience satisfies Jesus’ requirement above. This is not enough. While those modern tactics may sometime help in our coping with (or avoiding) society, they can often fall short of our commitment in loving one another. At best, this narrow approach is but a single dimension toward Jesus’ goal.
It can be scary and even dangerous to apply Jesus’ love in the manner being asked of us. It means that our love for others may translate to tolerance of others. That would be short sided as well. Tolerance does not mean avoiding correction of self and others. Jesus’ communal notion of loving one another does include the necessity of correction of others. It requires us to watch out for each other and help each other obtain heaven — with our spouse, ourselves, our children, and to carry our actions to the broader community. In today’s world, these forms of correction may lead to activism. We have many widespread examples where societal errors in thinking are in need of active correction. To be effective at this work requires our actions to be thoughtfully considered, exercising incredible skill, patience, and restraint. Our challenge is seeking ways, means, and tactics to assist correction in a manner that does not totally alienate others. Our manner and conduct in expressing correction should be in a way expressing love to others in the same way that Jesus expressed his love to us.
Jesus’ call “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” is indeed very challenging, especially in a world that readily rejects or bends the message of Jesus to fit personal preference and ideology. Nonetheless Jesus leaves us with no ambiguity in the Gospels — as difficult as those challenges seem. His love is a community thing. It requires definitive action on our part. It leaves us with the ultimate challenge to apply his type of love to include those around us and to correct errors and elevate the entire community toward Jesus’ call to his kind of love.
Deacon Don Poirier