Last Sunday, Jesus told us: “Remain in me as I remain in you.” And we heard that we will remain in him as long as we keep his commandments: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” Today, the Lord Jesus gives us his new commandment: “Love one another as I love you.” The Lord does not simply command us to love one another in any way we would like. He was very specific. It had to follow a pattern: “As I love you.” The pattern of our love for one another is his love for us. What does this mean? It means that even before commanding us to love, he first loved us. He first loved us because God himself is love as St. John said in the 2nd reading: “Love us of God…God is love.” Pope Benedict said: “In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant.” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1.) here we find the novelty of Biblical revelation. The Bible reveals to us a new image of God: it is the image of one true God who loves man. God loves us with a personal love. It is comparable to the love of a husband for his wife. This love “is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives.” (Deus Caritas Est, 10) On account of our “adultery” against God, God’s love goes beyond gratuity. His love is a forgiving love. God’s love “is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice.” (ibid.) “In Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the ‘stray sheep’, a suffering and lost humanity.” (Deus Caritas Est, 12) “His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand (what the 2nd reading told us): “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.” “There can be no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
God, who is love, first loved us even in spite of our infidelity against him. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son in expiation for our sins.” “Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1) “The ‘commandment’ of love is only possible because it is more than a requirement. Love can be ‘commanded’ because it has first been given.” (Deus Caritas Est, 14.) The experience of being loved by God changes us and makes our love mature to the point that we being to love what he loves and to reject what he rejects. Thus, we now learn to look at one another from the perspective of Jesus. “In God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know.” My communion with the will of Jesus affects even my feelings: “I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend.” I begin to look at my neighbors with that loving gaze of Jesus. I desire to lay down my life for my neighbor because he is my friend. And because I am willing to die for this neighbor, I will not deny him even the smallest act of service. How can I be expected to die for my neighbor if I am not even willing to serve him? If I cannot be faithful in little things, how can I be trustworthy of bigger things? Regardless of whomever it is who stands before me, I must be willing to look with loving eyes and extend my helping hand for I am loved by God and I desire to love like him.
Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.