“Love one another,” Jesus said. “By this the whole world will know that your are My disciples…if you have love for one another.” He calls it a new commandment. And we immediately think that His words, “love one another,” is that new commandment. But that was already an old commandment when Jesus spoke this!
From of old it was known, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said of these old commandments that on them hangs all the Law and the Prophets.
Aye, there’s the rub! Everything hangs…everyone gets hanged sooner or later on the commandment to love. For who could ever love so thoroughly?
Ah…but the new commandment is not simply “love one another.” That’s old. What’s new is what Jesus adds, “As I have loved you!” “As I have loved you…love one another.” And that makes all the difference!
So, Question #1: What has Jesus done in His love for us?
Answers to Question #1
(For the 6 catechumens’ answers to this and the following questions,
please listen to the audio recording.)
“As I have loved you!” Now that is an Alpha and Omega love, a beginning and end love, a yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever love. It is a life-laying down crucifixion love, which is always bound together at the same time with the new life lifted up resurrection love. “As I have loved you…love one another.”
So now that we are firmly rooted in Jesus’ love for us, buried with Christ by baptism into death; raised with Christ to walk in newness of life…anchored within His larger love…now we can turn to the part about “love one another.” This is the proper order, as St. John writes so clearly in his first epistle, “We love because He first loved us!”
Question #2: Considering what Jesus has done for us, how do His actions shape and guide our actions toward one another? Or is love only a feeling?
Answers to Question #2
There are some things you can rely on and some things you cannot. Oh it may be a divine law from the lips of Jesus Himself: “Love one another.” But you cannot depend on the Law to get it done. The only sure thing about the Law to love one another is that we will not always love one another.
Yes, St. Paul can write famously, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” But from our point of view we know very well how those words sting us with failure. We see that love does not always bear up…comes to an end. Because some people we love…some we do not…indeed some we cannot!
Shouldn’t the Law work better? We’ve been cheated! But who is to blame? Certainly not us! It’s not our Law! Maybe we can put the blame on Jesus. He said it. And then we can clear ourselves.
And right here in our dilemma of love we come to Question #3: What if other people are “unlovable” from a human point of view; how does the love of God work in such difficult or unpleasant situations?
Answers to Question #3
There is a genuine danger with this new commandment to love. If the command is only that, a command, “love one another,” its end is only pride or despair. But when this new commandment comes to us in the way of gift, “As I have loved you…” well, suddenly it really isn’t about us anymore. “As I have loved you,” He says. There’s a big promise in that! “As I have loved you,” means Jesus’ love is never limited. There is always more and more. And as He pours His love out for us, He pushes our hands wider open to receive even more of it.
We tend to hold our hands open just enough so that this divine love business doesn’t get carried away. We prefer to keep it well in hand. Turn love into a demand. But our Lord continues to pour out His gift of love…bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, never ending. With His love He gives us a nudge. “Come on, you can play in this game too!” And soon enough we discover that it is no longer we who love…it is Christ who loves in us and through us. Yes, by all means, love one another…but because He first loves us.