“Love one another as I have loved you.”
I was celebrating Holy Mass in the parish in which I grew up in my native country of Nigeria. I had just pronounced the words of consecration when I looked into the congregation and I saw him, a childhood friend of many years who had once caused me great pain. I was holding Jesus, the King of mercy, in my hands when I found myself struggling with hurt feelings. I honestly thought I had forgiven him from my heart all these years.
Why then was I still feeling hurt? I could not shake off this hurt feeling even as I was about to raise the consecrated host. I found relief and peace only when I muttered from my hurt heart, “Jesus, no matter my hurts, please bless him with all the graces and gifts that he needs at this time.” A sense of peace returned to me and I could actually embrace him and chat with him after Mass as if nothing painful ever happened between us.
Imagine the hurt in the heart of Jesus during the Last Supper meal as Judas was determined to betray Him no matter the signs of affection that Jesus had offered him all these years. As soon as Judas walked away and abandoned Him, Jesus used this opportunity to give His disciples the only live-giving pattern of loving, “Love one another as I have loved you.” So for us to know how we ought to love others, we must first look at Jesus as the ultimate exemplar of true love for others.
Firstly, Jesus love shows us that to love somebody is much more than being attracted to the person or finding the person beautiful. What would the truly perfect and holy one find attractive in our sinful selves? Indeed, Jesus does not love us because He finds something attractive in us that is not already His own gift to us. In addition, “In this God showed His love for us, in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) His love for us remains a gift that cannot be earned or merited.
Secondly, the love of Jesus for us shows us that to love somebody is more than getting something from the person. Jesus does not love us because of what He can get from us. He owns all things, including ourselves, “All things are created through Him and for Him,”(Col 1:16) Jesus gave Himself to us in the Eucharist on the very night that He was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by His trusted disciples. His love for them and for us is purely gratuitous.
Thirdly, the love of Jesus for us shows us that true love has little or nothing to do with good feelings. Jesus shows us that divine love can and does coexist with painful feelings. In His love for us, He endured the torments and anguish from Gethsemane, “My heart is sorrowful, even to death,”(Mt 26:38) to His mortal anguish on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”(Mt 27:46)
The example of Jesus’ love for us shows us that to really love somebody is to freely will to pursue the true good of the person, always bearing in mind that the greatest good for a person is to know and love God more. True love places God, and not the human love or beloved, in the center. It is all about God and not about us. To truly love somebody is to wish the person to know and love God more through our presence, words, and actions.
Jesus gave His life so that we can have the greatest good of knowing and loving God, “God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world, so that we might have life through Him.”(1Jn 4:9) In Jesus’ words, “This is eternal life – to know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”(Jn 17:3)
Because Jesus Christ is “the same, yesterday, today and forever,”(Heb 13:8) the love that the Eucharistic Jesus has for us is the very same love that He had for His disciples during His earthly sojourn. Jesus in the Eucharist remains the ultimate source and exemplar of true love. He gives us the pattern and the grace to freely sacrifice something dear to us so that others can have the greatest good, the greatest good being to know and love God more.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is no way that we can really love others as Christ has loved us if we do not know what is the greatest good – growing in our knowledge and love of the true God – and if we are not ready to sacrifice anything for them to have this greatest good. It is very hard for us to know what the greatest good is in our secular culture today when we can be tempted to live as if pleasure, comfort, wealth, public acceptance, or fame were the greatest good.
All the talk about tolerance in the Church today gives one the impression that we have lost the sense of what is the greatest good for us and for others. How can we truly love others if we tolerate all forms of deviant behaviors and teachings that are contrary to what God has revealed in Scripture and Tradition? Our fixation on tolerance places us and not God at the center and make it impossible for us to sacrifice anything for the sake of bringing others to know and love God more. We cannot even sacrifice our reputation, material gain, comfort or popularity, etc., for the sake of the true good for others. Little wonder we are plagued with endless painful scandals in the Church.
The Church is indeed hurting and grieving now as we see daily the painful scandals unfolding right in front of us. Many of our bishops, priests and religious have acted like Judas and wounded the heart of Jesus and the Church. Probably many of them succumbed to the climate of unreflecting tolerance of evil and error in their teaching and practice.
This time of hurt is a great opportunity for us to love like Christ has loved us. Jesus has prepared and gifted us with His love for moments like this. This is the time to love those who have lost their esteem in our eyes and those whom we feel cannot benefit us in any way. This is the time to love others when we do not feel good about our lives or what is going on in the Church. We should not wait for them to become good or attractive, or for them to meet our expectations or for us to feel good about loving them.
We can only maintain and deepen this Christ-like love if we recall that the Eucharistic Lord we receive today is the greatest good, who loves us even in our sins and poverty. He is the one who gratuitously pours God-centered love into our hearts by the gift of His Holy Spirit, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through His Spirit given to us.”(Rom 5:5) By the power of this Spirit of love, we can surrender all things – hurt feelings, prejudices, disappointments, regrets, bitterness, etc., and choose to love others so that they too may come to have the greatest good – a deeper knowledge and love of God.
We have Jesus, the greatest good, now within us. Now let us bring Him to others, no matter the cost, so that we can indeed love others as Christ has loved us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!