Today's readings can be found here, but today's Gospel from Saint John contains but a single bit of Jesus' dialog (two verses), that I would like to reflect on for a bit.
First, the scene needs to be set. Saint John is recalling the Last Supper of Christ with His disciples: Judas has just left to fulfill his treacherous deeds and the Lord is speaking to His disciples when He says:
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.(Jn 13, 34-35 NAB).
Consider how Christ loves us: unconditionally, sacrificially, humbly, completely, as the Father does--fiercely and without release. Consider how His body and His arms were stretched upon the cross--an image of embrace--and He allowed Himself to be brutally killed for us so that He may defeat death for all of humanity--those in the grave, those on earth, and those yet to come in future generations.Consider how we today share in this redemptive gift, millennia later; and all the generations that follow will also share in the gift of Christ's love.
So, how is it that Christ can really ask us to love others as He loved us? He, better than anyone on earth, knows that we are incapable of loving as He has loved; He is, after all, true God and true man, and we are merely human flesh--dust. But, He also knows the depth of His love for us. He knows the grace that flows from that love for our benefit; the grace that lifts us above what we could only accomplish on our own merit. In fact, we have no merit, but for His love. Our lives, our very bodies, are not our own, but the Lord's. So, Christ gives us this command to love as He has loved because He is there in all our moments of need and weakness to assist us in our struggles, to give us the strength we need, to attune our hearts to the Sacred Heart that lives and suffered for us. He gives us the commandment knowing full well that to achieve it, we must rely entirely on Him.
It is that reliance on Christ--as an absolute, daily need--that has struck me this Easter. I am powerless to accomplish anything without Christ. I cannot withstand temptation without Christ. I cannot achieve anything without Christ. My life is meaningless without Christ. It is this recognition of our need to be completely reliant on Christ that truly characterizes the love we are to have for one another.
We do not do it on our own. We are not to be full of self-determination and self-pride. We are not to judge according to our sense of what is right. We are, however, to be meek, humble, selfless, sacrificial, and completely reliant on our Creator, the Holy Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If we truly strive to live in this way, others will recognize it. For we would be living a life that is runs absolutely counter to the dominant Western culture. We would be living a life that is radical, not only in the love we show to others--the new law--but, also in the love we show to Christ our Lord--in obedience to the first commandment of God the Father. Remember, Christ did not come to abolish the old law, but to give us a new law.
So, the heart of Christ's command to us in today's Gospel passage is this: strive not to be known. Rely entirely on God. In that reliance love Christ with all that you have and love others as Christ loves us, praying continually that He may enable us to live for Him. Recognize your own need, your own emptiness, but for Christ's love. We are not to invest in the ego of ourselves, but are to give ourselves entirely over to Him.
And all of this is possible because He is risen! A dead savior is not capable of such love; only the risen Christ that has conquered death and given salvation to all is capable and authoritative in this command.
Praise the Lord. May he strengthen us and protect us on this journey.