Father Jacques de Longeaux, parish priest of Saint-Pierre du Gros-Caillou in Paris, comments on the gospel of the 5th Sunday of Easter (John 13, 31-35). It is about the central place of love in the faith and the Christian life. But what’s the news of this love?
I remember a child in the catechism who inevitably answered all the questions the catechist asked him: “Love”. He had noticed that this word appeared frequently in the church, and that it was unlikely that he was mistaken in answering in this way. For example, if one were to ask, “Who can tell me what Easter is?” he raised his finger and said, “Love.” Which of course is not false, but needs to be clarified!
This Sunday’s gospel shows the central place of love in the faith and in the Christian life. We are during the Last Supper. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and resumed his seat at the table. This gesture was the triggering event that decided Judas to extradite him. He just went out at night. In that moment, Jesus knows that his destiny is sealed, that his hour has come: “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). The words that Jesus utters then continue the essence of his message: “I give you a new commandment: To love one another. In this, everyone will recognize that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another ”.
What is this love?
Brotherly love is the hallmark of Christians. We recognize Jesus’ disciples on the quality of the love that unites them. How do you understand that? What is this love? In fact, there is nothing unique about members of a group that share the same faith, show solidarity with each other, call each other brothers and sisters, are friends and help each other, especially if the environment is hostile. Where is the Christian news? Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you also love one another.” Therein lies the news: to love as Jesus loved us. When we look at Jesus, we realize what it means to love concretely.
To love as Jesus loves is to care for others, to take care of them in case of need, without imposing oneself, without appropriating them.
To love as Jesus loves is to recognize everyone as a unique person. It is to take into account everyone, to pay attention, to go beyond the first impression, the hasty judgment based on appearance. It takes time, it takes the trouble to know. Love takes you out of anonymity. Love overcomes prejudice. To love as Jesus loves is to care for others, to take care of them in case of need, without imposing oneself, without appropriating them. Love is the opposite of indifference. He is unconditional and selfless. This can lead far in commitment, service, the gift of one’s time and of one’s person.
To love as Jesus loves is also to love those who are not like us, for whom we do not feel spontaneous sympathy, who do not belong to our family, kind or social group: “If you only greet your brothers, Jesus says, what are you doing that is amazing? Do not the Gentiles themselves do the same thing? (Mt 5:47). I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may become children of your Heavenly Father ”(Matthew 5: 44-45). Brotherly love is not limited to those in our clan, it is open to all. To love as Jesus loves is to know how to forgive. It is to allow a relationship that is hurt by violation to have a future.
The Christian news
It is this love that constitutes the Christian novelty. It is when we love in this way that we are credible witnesses of Christ for our world. This love transcends our abilities, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit. The saints – in particular Charles de Foucauld, canonized this Sunday – are examples of what divine love achieves in a human being. We ask God for grace to also realize it in us. This catechism child understood well that love is the heart of the Christian faith, since God is love, and he created us in his image of love and affection. May the Lord increase us in His commandment to love one another so that the world may believe.