Today’s gospel returns us to the Last Supper where Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet. They didn’t understand what he was trying to teach them through thissymbolic act of love, but he put into words the message his actions proclaimed: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Jesus didn’t just tell them to love, but he modeled for them what love looked like. This measure of love was not determined by their feelings or their blood or cultural ties, but by love that recognized no divisions among them. And if feet-washing didn’t reveal his love message, his impending passion would violently reveal the extent of that love. On Last Supper eve, the disciples received a new commandment: “Love one another,” the commandment that would reflect, for all time, all who are followers of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ love is called a commandment because it is formed by the covenant-bond between Christ and his disciples. Jesus forged and sealed this new and eternal covenant, and those of us who call ourselves Christians must accept his call to love as he loves. Jesus’ love is revealed to us by his preaching, his suffering, and by his death on the cross. Jesus not only gave us the command to love, but also gave us the grace to accomplish it. This command to love, proclaimed at every Eucharistic gathering, reminds us that Jesus’ love is present in his gift of himself as we gather to feast at his Table.
This commandment to love also motivates our responses to the challenges of our lives. It is all encompassing, moving far beyond the love commands of the old law that restricted love to neighbors, kinspersons and certain resident foreigners. Jesus’ new commandment asks us to love without limits, conditions, qualifications or prerequisites. How different our world would be if that would happen.
If we truly loved one another, then we would discover what the first disciples knew 2000 years ago: the endless delight of what God can do and how all the old barriers to love dissolve as we become open to that possibility. A Mother Teresa story provides us an example of how love can dissolve barriers. One day Mother Teresa came upon a man lying in the gutter very near death. He was filthy and dressed in rags with flies swarming over his body. Mother Teresa embraced him, spoke gently to him and began cleaning his dirty body. A passerby was so repulsed by the sight of the man that he remarked to Mother Teresa, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Her immediate response was, “Neither would I !”
Obviously, financial gain was not the motivation for Mother Teresa’s act of love. She embodied the Gospel command to “love one another,” reminding us that we must grow in love and to do that, we must go on living and loving and giving---the way Jesus did. We are not Mother Teresa, but we are followers of Jesus called to embrace the commandment to love. It is his mandate that must be renewed in our midst. And it must be our resolve to keep it renewed and affirmed while ignoring the many 21st Century attractions that attempt to derail our loving.
~Deacon Wilson Shierk