“This I command you: love one another” –(Gospel)

Wherever you were this past week, I do not know, but one thing sure is that those of us who spent time with Jesus at Mass last weekend were for a moment walking along the vineyards while Jesus revealed himself to be the vine and we are the branches.  He was teaching a lesson about remaining in relationship with him and with each other.

Today we prepare for the Ascension of the Lord into heaven by listening to his final will and testament for us: “love one another as I have loved you”. Why does Jesus give us such a command at such a solemn moment?  Isn’t love something that comes natural? Doesn’t it just happen?  Don’t we “fall in love”?  Everyone naturally experiences some form of love from parents, friends, companions and spouses.  There are many ways of experiencing love. Isn’t it strange that Jesus should command us to love? 

His request is strange only if we identify love, as many people do today, with feeling. We do not command our feelings.  Feelings have to do with ‘liking’ people. Jesus is not commanding us to like everyone, although if we love deeply enough we will eventually get to like everyone too.

Christ’s command is not about feelings, but an act of the will, a decision, a commitment to act for the good of others no matter how we feel or don’t feel about them.  Here the Lord is telling us to love others, even those we do not particularly care for. Christian love is a decision, a commitment to do whatever will serve a person’s spiritual benefit, whether we like the individual or not.  Simply proclaiming: “I may need to love you but I do not have to like you”, is certainly not the way to begin a real love relationship as expected by the Lord. The confusion of loving and liking causes for many problems.

I can say: I love Yosemite, I love Bass Lake, I love this area of California. That is why I keep coming back to this place or why I have chosen to live here.  I love a lot of things but it’s just people I can’t stand and therefore cannot love.

If we identify married love with romance (a feeling), for example, is that the basis for a life-long marriage?  Some who might think so get all tangled up with the real meaning of marriage. What guarantees that you will feel the same tomorrow or next year?  When feelings start to change, does that mean that the marriage is over? Or could this signal the beginning of a new, more mature and honest relationship, a real commitment to step up and now show the true love you claimed to bring to this relationship?  You can’t prove it’s love until it begins to hurt.

If we identify our spiritual life with feelings, what happens with those feelings when they pass as they invariably do?  So many times we identify our love of Christ or his Church by the intensity of the feelings we achieve in His presence or in some religious experience.  When the feelings dwindle, does that mean that the Holy Spirit is gone? Has our baptism evaporated? Or could this be the start of a new and more mature commitment to God?  If we love only the people we like, how is that deserving of praise?  Jesus reminds us that even the Pharisees loved in that way.

Love is a decision to seek the spiritual good of another whether we like them or not. If we wait for some people to become agreeable or likeable, we may wait forever.

So Jesus says that we should love others as he loves us. Don’t think only of the Cross when you hear this.  Think of how Jesus is dealing with us now. He cares, loves and supports us no matter what. He calls us one of his own and seeks to change what needs improvement in our life. 

If we read today’s Gospel by seeing love as a decision, a commitment and a mission, a new world of Christ-like living opens up for us. We live in a time when people are governed by emotions and passion.  Jesus calls us to something more realistic, healthier, more mature.  It is a love that has the power to move mountains and change the world. 

John is right in saying: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God.”  Let us never tire of saying how much we love one another and showing this fact by the way we treat one another, work with one another. Let us bring this love into every avenue of our life’s commitment to all whom God has placed there.  Go home this weekend with the same enthusiasm with which you chose to live here, visit here or return here, but now with a commitment to love rather than respond to a simple passion. 

In the words of Jesus: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”






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