Christ’s gift of love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Easter Wk. V, Yr.C, 19 May 2019
Acts 14:21-27 ><)))> Revelations 21:1-5 ><)))> John 13:31-33, 34-35
Sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.

I was sleeping soundly along with other customers at our barbershop last Thursday noon when we were jolted by a boy about four years old who shrieked and threw on tantrums as he vehemently refused to have a haircut. It was a big scene and the poor young mother was at a loss how to pacify her son who kept yelling at her “I do not want to have a haircut!”

After a couple of minutes, everybody sighed with relief – except me – when the boy finally finally cooled off to sit on the barber’s chair for his haircut. I felt no relief first because the more I pitied the young mother who had to bribe her spoiled son with a cellphone to play computer games just to behave. And secondly, I was never able to get back to my siesta due to the sounds of the boy’s computer games.

As I looked in horror with the scene, I wondered if this is the new kind of love today when gadgets and things replace persons.

When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “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.”

John 13:31, 34-35
Boat ride at the Lake of Tiberias, 04 May 2019.

It is very true that love of neighbor is not a Christian innovation. Other great religions also have love as a fundamental principle.

The newness in Jesus’ new commandment to love lies deeply in his following sentence, “As I have loved you, so you should love one another.”

To love like Jesus Christ is more than doing a higher order kind of love or a more loving way of loving by following a stricter moral standard.

To love like Jesus is to love in union with the Father who is love himself!

This newness of his commandment to love is found deep in the preceding scene of the gospel when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. In the fourth gospel, the washing of the feet is the meaning of love expressed in the Holy Eucharist that prefigured Good Friday’s crucifixion. In relating that scene, St. John used the word “clean” three times as Jesus declared to his disciples “you are clean” (Jn.13:10).

It was in the washing the feet when Jesus first clearly showed the most unique and loving way of God coming down to us to cleanse us of our sins. Purity is always a gift from God because we cannot make ourselves clean. And like in that washing of feet of his disciples, Jesus continues to purify us in every Mass we celebrate today. The more we are “purified” by Jesus in the Eucharist, the more we learn to be like him, to love like him unconditionally and most of all, to love in union with the Father who is love himself.

And there lies the newness of Christ’s new commandment of love, for us to love like Jesus in him and with him.

We will always be imperfect and sinful, always needing to be cleansed and purified to be fitting to God. In the same manner, human love is always imperfect like us. Most often, we love for reasons that are always wrong or sometimes love in seasons that soon go off season. There will always be people and situations when our arguments and reasons not to love are not only right and proper but also justified. But when we come to realize this gift of love from Jesus, of loving like him in union with the Father, we become his extension and channel of love. Love, then, becomes pure and doable, even easier and acceptable because first of all, we experience it in us.

Franciscan Monastery, Mt. Nebo, Jordan where God let Moses view the Promised Land to be given to the Israelites. The cross with serpent prefigured the salvation to come from Christ’s death: the Israelites complained against God who punished them by sending poisonous snakes that bit and killed them. The Israelites repented and God ordered Moses to make a copper snake image to mount it on a stick that whoever looked at it was healed of the snake bite and lived (Numbers 21:6). Photo by author 03 May 2019.

To love like Jesus is totally new because it is not really us who does the loving but Jesus himself in us and with us. It is a totally new kind of love because it is a love not based on norms or rules but on God himself. It is a totally new kind of love because we allow Jesus to act in us, making God truly present among us. Thus, we all become an Emmanuel like Jesus, God-is-with-us. What a great honor for us to be a presence of God in Jesus! That despite our sins and weaknesses, Jesus continues to cleanse us so he may dwell in us and work through us. When we obey his new commandment to love like him, then his words at the end of today’s gospel are indeed fulfilled, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn.13: 35). It is a love so different from the world that sets us apart from others, enabling us to make a big difference in this world marred with sin and imperfections.

This remains the great challenge among us now in our time when Jesus said “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer” (Jn.13:33) when he gave this new commandment. It is the present time where we always have that tension of the here and the not yet oriented toward Jesus who has come, is coming now and will come in the end of time. This is why until now like during the time of the apostles, we have priests or presbyters appointed to care for the flock by leading them in a life of charity and unity in the Church. Every priest as well as every Christian is supposed to be a presence of Christ, loving like Jesus in union with the Father. How sad when we, priests and lay people alike, deny this kind of love of Jesus, destroying our unity in the Father as one family of believers and followers.

Let us not waste Christ’s gift of love so unique that unites us with the Father and with everyone. Let us strive harder that despite our sinfulness and many differences of beliefs and affiliations, through Christ’s gift of purity and love, we may little by little realize “a new heaven and a new earth” as John saw in his vision at Patmos. A blessed Sunday to everyone! Amen.

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