“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).
We are capable of loving because Jesus has loved us first. All of creation is an expression and an outpouring of the divine love and communion of the Trinity. Love, if it is true, goes out from the self to be there for the other. St. Paul wrote that love is patient and kind (1 Cor 13:4). These are virtues that flow out of our willing the good of the other as other.
When we act with patience, we love because we resist the temptation to react and strike out. We do not seek to protect our ego, but seek to understand and be present to the person. We see them beyond their brokenness, we resist fueling and feeding their frustrations by not adding our own impatient responses, and thereby help to dissipate any growing negativity. Instead we allow Jesus to love the person through us. We listen, accompany and guide.
When we are kind, we do so because we resist returning hurtful acts with acts of love, seeking nothing in return. We are kind because this is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are not kind in the hope that people are kind in return. We are kind because that is the foundation our being, this is our posture and disposition that we direct toward those we encounter.
So often we do not know what another is going through. When someone cuts us off in the course of our travel, we do not have to react in anger, but can choose instead to send a blessing, that the driver may find peace of mind, slow down and have a safe trip. We can pray that all those driving may drive mindfully so all may be safe on the road.
When someone is short or curt with us, instead of reacting by being sharp or snarky in return, we can take a breath, and ask Jesus in that moment to be present in us and minister through us to the person in our midst. We can choose to be open to loving the person as Jesus loves us, accepting them as they are in that moment, and being willing to allow the Holy Spirit to be present in our encounter with them.
Some good beginning steps that I have found to love another is to be patient and kind in the moment, to smile, and offer my hand in greeting and be available to listen. These very simple acts do have a cost in that our ego and focus on self becomes less, but what we gain in return is that Jesus becomes more and we see each other as human beings. In these simple acts we say to the other, even before we have said anything with our words, that they are important to us, they have worth and dignity, because we are willing to make the time to acknowledge and respect their presence, not reacting to and defining them by their weakness and brokenness in that moment.
“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
Photo: CN Strong, patience and kindness in action!