Acts of the Apostles 14: 21 - 27
Revelation 21: 1 - 5
John 13: 31 - 33, 34 - 35
Judas has just betrayed Jesus. Jesus knows this, but the other Apostles think that Judas went to purchase items for the Feast. You and I know what follows. Jesus' response is to talk about the glorification that is to come. This glorification will be realized in His death on the cross and ultimately His Resurrection. Through all this God will be glorified in Christ. And Jesus wants to prepare His disciples for that reality and to command them to love one another.
Jesus says: "I give you a new commandment: love one another, as I have loved you, so you also should love one another." A famous line, a well-known scriptural line, even people who are not active in the "institutional church" would be familiar with this quote. But is it new? Not really, because loving God and loving each other is part of Jewish tradition. All one needs to do is to look at the books of Leviticus ( 19: 18 ff) and ( Deuteronomy (6:4 ff) – and we learn of the great law of love to God and to neighbor. So what might be going on here?
Loving those, getting along with those, caring for those with whom we get along is the easy part. Loving the rest of the world is the challenge. Through Jesus' Passion and death we learn how, even with our enemies, we are still called to live in love. Jesus exhibits this "par excellence" as He goes through it all – the spitting, the heckling, the scourging, the mocking – all of it without complaint, or as Isaiah says: "like a silent lamb He was led to the slaughter." And even from the cross Jesus prays, "Father forgive them." That forgiveness for which Jesus was praying extends to our current time and to the end of time as He is forgiving us for the times when we transgressed by not being faithful to our Baptismal call, by not reflecting the Light of Christ that we received at our Baptism, by not being a light that extends encouragement, hope, care, forgiveness, peace and justice.
Yes, Jesus is giving to us, and showing us by His example that true Love is more than love for those who agree with us, who do not question us. Love is to be extended even to those who hate us and ridicule us. When we reflect on Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, we learn what true Christian Love entails. "Love is patient, Love is kind, it is not jealous, … it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."
Such a love is a distinguishing mark of the followers of Jesus. In Antioch, the followers of Jesus were called Christians for the first time because of the love they had for one another, even their enemies.
Jesus makes plain His call to the disciples. "Let Me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you are to love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are My disciples – when they see the love you have for each other". Jesus is being bold and clear. Can we accept His challenge?