It may come as a surprise to realise that Jesus gave us the command to love one another at the Last Supper shortly after Judas had left the upper room on his mission of betrayal. This was the new order the Saviour had come to bring, and the sign by which the world would recognise his followers. Christ paid a great price to love us. It meant crucifixion and death on the cross at Calvary. If we are to live by this new commandment we must undergo many trials, for this love makes as many demands upon us as it did upon Christ. We need to learn how to go about loving others for the sake of God because in the evening of life, we will be judged on how well we have loved.
Christ’s rule for living life properly may not present problems as far as loving our friends is concerned. Most of us are fairly good at overlooking their faults, making allowances for their shortcomings and forgiving their failures. It is easy to love those who are kind and loving towards us but Christian love calls us to do more than this. Nobody must be excluded from our loving. What about our enemies – those who have done us harm and perhaps still do? We fail miserably when we retaliate and our good intentions are shattered as we gossip maliciously about them. The making of ourselves into real Christians is the work of a lifetime. Conversion does not take place overnight and requires much patience.
The one thing we all need to experience is the kind of love that Jesus lived and preached. It’s a love which finds its source in God, is a fragment of eternity within our being and without which our lives have no meaning. This is the one commandment on which we are called to base every action and it is the very core of the gospel. Love has the power to give meaning to impossible situations, to bring light into darkness, to inspire people, fill them with hope and give them courage to continue on the road ahead. The Lord may not be walking our pathway today in his physical body but in every age he continues the work of making the whole creation new through his disciples. The good news is that we have been chosen to be instruments of his grace, channels through which others may experience his love. It may simply be a smile which costs nothing but means so much, because it comes from our heart. In one sense the only failure facing any Christian in life is the failure to love.
The gospel is an invitation to look into our hearts and see how we are answering this call to love in our lives and within our families. There is always the danger that we may be in love with ourselves instead of with one another. The presence of God so easily fades into the background when we give way to this inner selfishness. The real test of love is how we respect others. No one can be a friend of Jesus Christ who does not love their neighbour.
Fr Peter Tipene