Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
When a scholar of the law asked Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22: 36-40)
In the Gospel for this Fifth Sunday of Easter Jesus gives us a new commandment. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you so you also should love one another.” And he made this as a sign of his disciples. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 34-35)
This new commandment is quite different from the old commandment. The old law commanded us to love our neighbor as we love our self. The new commandment bids us to love our neighbor as Jesus has loved us. How did Jesus love us? “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil.2:7-8)
This is the kenosis of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery: love fulfills itself by emptying itself. This is the new math of Christianity: you add by subtracting and multiply by dividing. “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This amazing paradox of Christianity is one of the few texts found in all four Gospels. (Matt. 10:39; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25)
This is the gist of the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who left all to follow Jesus. “Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Isn’t it strange that we can say this prayer so often and sing it so beautifully and never get the point? We foolishly think that we fulfill ourselves by self-gratification and self-indulgence, by receiving and possessing. We think that if we empty ourselves we will be vulnerable. So like the rich fool in the Gospel we spend our time and energy and our lives feathering this little nest here as if it will go on forever heedless of our Lord’s warning, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” (Luke 12:20)
On the other hand it is not so strange that we don’t get the point when we realize that we live in a consumer society where buying and consuming, receiving and possessing is held to be the standard of success and value and is beamed at us constantly through the media. It is not easy to be contra-cultural. So we buy things that we do not need with money we do not have to impress people we do not like. In a way the human mind is like a computer and one of the inexorable laws of the computer is: garbage in, garbage out. We can’t fill our minds with this trash and expect something spiritual to come out.
This new commandment reminds us that love is not cheap; it costs to be a lover. The language of love is sacrifice. Never has this language of love been spoken so convincingly and as efficaciously as our Lord spoke it from the cross on Calvary. The crucifix with the wounded heart will ever be the symbol and the proof of love. If you want to know how much you love someone just ask yourself how much you are willing to sacrifice, not of your possessions, but of yourself for that person.
I have loved you so you also should love one another.”
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