5th Sunday of Easter
John 13: 31-35
This Gospel passage presents a very poignant scene to us. Jesus is speaking with his beloved Apostles at the Last Supper, preparing them for his impending suffering and death. They are in the dark about what exactly is to happen to him in only a few hours but He, the light that has come into the world, is fully aware of how He is to be glorified and how painful this glorification will be for him. Not only will he suffer the physical agony of his passion but he will also suffer through the betrayal of one of his closest companions, the denial of another and the almost universal abandonment of him by the rest of his disciples. And yet, knowing all this Jesus’ words to them during the Last Supper are full of love and tenderness. He affectionately refers to his disciples as his ‘little children’ and he speaks of how He has loved them. He will shortly prove the true immensity of his love for them, and all his children, when he freely mounts the wood of the cross. As Jesus himself says ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (Jn 15:13)
Jesus came to fully reveal God to us. He is the human face of God and the Divine face of man. He who is love came to show us, by his example and teachings, how to truly love. Now, before his passion and death, he gives one final commandment to his disciples. They must love one another as he has loved them. If they do, then others will recognise Jesus in them. The first vocation of a Christian is to love. If we strive to do this, we will attract others to Christ by our example. As St Francis is reported to have said ‘preach always and when necessary, use words’. Our actions can often speak much louder than any words we may ever speak. For this reason, as Christians, we should always strive to be conscious of setting a good example in all that we say and do. If we fail to love, our example may turn others away from Christ. As Ghandi once said ‘I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.’ Jesus is counting on us to be his faithful witnesses and to evangelise others through our love for one another. We can only do this effectively if we remain close to Jesus through frequently availing of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and confession. In this way, Christ living in us will help us to love with his love.
The words of Jesus in this passage present a real challenge for each of us. Love is the heart of the Christian message and as the great Carmelite mystic, St John of the Cross, said ‘In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.’ Let us ask Jesus today to help us to love as he loves and particularly to help us to love those we find hardest to love.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
–Jn 13: 31-35