Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (Jn 15:12). This verse is foundational to our faith as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus. Love is what Jesus lived, modeled, taught, and commanded, but even more so, Love is who, as the second person of the Trinity Jesus embodies because he is Love. By becoming human, as one of us, and embracing the Paschal Mystery: his suffering, crucifixion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven, the Son of God opened up the reality for us that we can also participate in the very same love he shares with his Father.
We are capable of loving others because Jesus has loved us first. How did he love us? We are blessed in that Jesus gave his life for you and me, each and every person, for those who believe in him and those who don’t, he gave his life for the good and the bad alike. Jesus was willing to suffer the scourging, agony of his carrying the cross, crucifixion, and death. He was not just going through the motions, his divine Person was not somehow hovering over his body. Jesus felt the rejection, the betrayal, the physical torment of the nails, because, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
Some of us may have heard this verse so many times that we do not fully appreciate the impact of it. The gift of the liturgical seasons is that the readings of Scripture are offered again and again so we can experience the telling again and again. We just need to slow down and ponder the significance of this reading, breathe in the reality of this passage, so that it becomes the living Word of God, not just a dead letter. As we do so, we will be less apt to take our life for granted, the life we have been given at such great cost. In coming to realize the gift that Jesus gave for us, and meditating on that reality, hopefully, we can see others in our life who we may have taken for granted. Those who have loved us, have been there for us, have been there when maybe when no one else has been.
What is our response to the love of Jesus that we have been blessed with? Jesus answers: “This I command you: love one another” (Jn 15:17). Jesus ends today’s Gospel as recorded by John where he began at the beginning, he invites us to love. Jesus loves us more than our worst mistakes or our most grievous of sins; he loves us more than we can ever hope or imagine. This is important to not only hear but to allow the reality of this grace to fill us to overflowing, such that we seek to love others as well in the same fashion.
In embracing the love of Jesus, his invitation of friendship, and with a heart full of gratitude, maybe just maybe, we too will love others a little more today than we did yesterday, and a little more tomorrow than today. Love is not a willingness to love each other only when everything is going well. Love is being willing to do so one conflict at a time, one interruption at a time, one inconvenience at a time, one heartbreak, and even one betrayal at a time. We are able to truly love when we are willing to see each other as Jesus sees us, as friends: as human beings endowed with dignity. When we are willing to do so, we are ready to love, one encounter, one moment, one person at a time.
Photo: Learning to will each other’s good through junior and senior year and hopefully continuing to as they finish their freshman year of college!