During the Last Supper, Jesus gave his Apostles a very specific instruction: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). These words, spoken to his closest companions on the night before he was to offer his life for them, are not just a pious admonition. Instead, they are an indication that Jesus’ sacrifice was itself an act of love (cf. Jn 13:1), and an example of the way they should love one another: “In this way, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn. 13:35).
|Crucifixion by Rembrandt|
Reflecting on this love, Father Romano Guardini wrote:
Love proceeded from Him everywhere. We encounter love all about Him. But we want to seek it out in the flaming, radiant center. Love is what He showed toward the delicate blossoming of His Father’s creation, when He speaks of the lilies of the field, and how God has clothed them more magnificently than Solomon in all his glory… Love is what seizes our Lord when He sees the obscure, abandoned masses of people, and takes pity on them “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” There is something heroic, strong, in this love for people forsaken, in distress… Oh, this tremendous Lover and the might and majesty of His heart taking up arms against the massive world-force of sorrow, magnificently sure of His inexhaustible power to comfort, to strengthen, to bless! Love is indeed all these things. But still we do not see the uniqueness about these several instances that bring us to say: Love is He and He alone.
-from Jesus Christus
It is the love which proceeded from Jesus that enables us to love one another and, in giving himself to us completely, Jesus shows us how to love: “Jesus gave himself as a model and source of love, of boundless, universal love that could transform all the negative circumstances and all obstacles into opportunities to progress in love” (Benedict XVI, Homily of May 2, 2010). Regardless of what happens in our world, the violence against innocence, the acts of terror, love is stronger; love will endure. No human life is useless or without value, because each one of us is loved personally and passionately by the One who gave everything for our sakes (cf. Romans 5:8).
Saint Thérèse of Liseux reflected on the place of love in the life of the Church when she wrote, “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was aflame with Love. I understood that Love alone stirred the members of the Church to act… I understood that love encompassed all vocations, that Love was everything” (from Manuscript B, 3vo: Êuvres complètes [Paris, 1996], p. 226). The question we must ask ourselves is quite simple: How do I live this love?
Saint Paul reminds us that even if we speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and if we have faith to “move mountains,” but are without love, all these things will mean nothing (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:2). Our love can exclude no one and must be lived out in a commitment to practical and concrete care and concern for every human being. The Gospel isn’t simply an invitation to do good deeds or even to live “the Golden Rule.” Gospel-love demands that we spend ourselves in the service of others.
Blessed John Paul II, anticipating the new millennium, wrote: “In our own time, there are so many needs which demand a compassionate response from Christians. Our world [is] burdened by the contradictions of an economic, cultural, and technological progress which offers immense possibilities to a fortunate few, while leaving millions of others not only on the margins of progress but in living conditions far below the minimum demanded by human dignity. How can it be that even today there are still people dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their heads?” He continued by noting the prevalence of fear, despair, addiction, marginalization, and discrimination that are rampant, even within affluent societies and groups. He reminded us, “Now is the time for a new ‘creativity’ in charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective but also by ‘getting close’ to those who suffer, so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating handout but as a sharing between brothers and sisters” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49-50).
Before it is anything else, Easter is a celebration of love, and it is love alone that makes all things new: “He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). Our task, as followers of Jesus, is to live in imitation of our Teacher: “Jesus came into this world for one purpose. He came to give us the Good News that God loves us, that God is love, that God loves you, and that God loves me. Jesus wants us to love one another as he loves each one of us. Let us love him. How did Jesus love you and me? By giving his life. He gave all that he had, his life, for you and me. He died on the cross because he loves us, and wants us to love one another as he loves each one of us” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta).