09 May 2010

To Love as Jesus Loves

5th Sunday of Easter – 2 May 2010

Readings: Acts 14:21b-27; Ps 145:8-9,10-11,12-13; Rev 21:1-5a; Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

A. The Gospel passage this Sunday has Jesus giving us a "new" commandment: love one another.

Though the original scene may have happened more than 2,000 years ago the command is still new. Everyday presents new opportunities, new dimensions and new challenges in loving one another.

The other point of the passage is that Jesus showed us the way to love.

In the book "A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul", a contributor Dan Clark recalled a valuable lesson on loving he learned from his father when he was a teenager.

They went on a father and son bonding to watch a circus. At the line for the ticket sellers booth, before them was a large happy family: a father and mother standing proud as could be, and their eight kids, all of them no more than 12 years old. When it was their turn at the booth and the ticket lady quoted the price for their tickets, the man realized he didn't have enough money. His lip began to quiver. It was a desperate, heartbreaking, embarrassing situation. How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn't have enough to take them to the circus?

Seeing what was going on, Dan's dad put his hand into his pocket, pulled a $20 bill and dropped it on the ground. He then said to the desperate father: "Excuse me, sir,, this fell out of your pocket." The man knew what was going on. He wasn't begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help. He took the money, teary eyed, and replied: “Thank you, thank you, sir, this really means a lot to me and my family.”

Dan Clark concluded his story: "My father and I went back to our car and drove home. We didn't go to the circus that night, but we didn't go without."

William Wordsworth says in a poem:
“The best portion of a good man's life
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love”

Jesus shows us the way to love

1. His love is all encompassing and unconditional.

It is so unlike our transactional loves, e.g., I love you... if you love me back, ...as long as you hold a good job, ...if you maintain your figure. Even our love for our country is transactional. many of us tell our candidates, I'll vote for you but what will you give me for my vote?

Christ's love includes everyone and doesn't sets conditions before He loves us. Rom 5,8 says: "God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

2. He gives everything, even his very life to his beloved.

Jn 15,11 says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends”. And Jesus went on to prove how much He was true to His words. Are you willing to die for your loved ones? What about people you don't know? We still have much to grow in our loving.

3. He prefers the least, the last and the lost.

He associates with sinners and lowly people, those who could not repay him for favors in return, those who could not add to His social capital, and those who needed Him most. Jesus once retorted to His self-righteous critics in Mk 2,17: "Those who are well do not need a physician, 11 but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."

Who are the ones that we prefer to love? It is easy to love the "loveables". But what about the difficult ones, the ones whose company is an experience to endure, or the ones whose presence raises suspicions?

4. He is not afraid to forgive and to tell His loved ones they are wrong.

The problem at times with the way we love is that we don't make provisions when things go wrong, or more particularly, when our loved ones do wrong. Forgiveness should not come too quickly but it should happen eventually. The problem with many of us when it comes to dispensing forgiveness is not so much because the very act is difficult to do -- in fact, it is quite liberating -- but that we are afraid to trust again, to invest emotionally again and thus run the risk of being betrayed again. And so we choose not to forgive and carry the burden of anger and stress for a long time.

Jesus showed us that we need not be afraid to forgive. A couple of Sundays ago, the Gospel was about the scene when Christ ask Peter three times if he loves Him. That is Christ's way of forgiving Peter and redeeming himself from the three times that he betrayed Him on the night of His passion.

Also, some of us who do forgive, may also find ourselves inadequate at another end: that of telling a friend or loved one that what he or she is doing isn't right anymore. It is in fact an a work of mercy to gently tell someone the error of his or her ways.

When Christ was presented with the dilemma of the woman caught in adultery, towards the end of their encounter, He tells her: "Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more."

5. He is faithful. He keeps his promises.

The greatest witness of Jesus to love is his faithfulness. He is faithful to His Father, accomplishing His will to the end. He is faithful to His friends. Even when they abandoned Him, He came back to them. And He will be true to His promises. In Rev 21,5, John writes of God's promise that in the end "(He will) make all things new”.

B. “When Judas had left them…”

I would like to end with a short reflection on the very first line of the Gospel passage this Sunday. It says that Jesus began this particular discourse with the disciples "when Judas had left them".

We all know what happened to Judas after this scene. He went on to betray Jesus, and days later after being overcome with remorse, he hanged himself to death.

Now Judas wasn’t able to hear of Jesus’ command of love because he chose to leave, be apart from their community, and follow his own wisdom. It is arguable that even were he physically present during the whole Last Supper, he wouldn't have listened anyway, because he had already made up his mind, and follow his own wisdom.

Somebody says that there are only two sets of people in the world:
1. Those that say “Lord, thy will be done.”
2. Those to whom God says: “Okay then, let’s have it your way.”

Which way leads to true happiness: God's or ours. There is no other way, but to love. Then again there people who, because of some hurtful or tragic experience in the past, chooses instead to drift apart from their community of friends and follow their own loveless yet safe logic. To them C.S. Lewis has this to say:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

May God grant us all the wisdom and the courage to love as Jesus loves.

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