Fifth Sunday of Easter
Love All People in the World with the Heart of Heaven and Earth
First Reading (Acts 14: 21-27): Paul travelled all over strengthening the disciples' faith
Second Reading (Rev 21: 1-5): There are no more tears in the new heaven and new earth
Gospel (Jn 13: 31-35): The commandment to love one another
“-To love with the heart of a parent, no brother in this world is unkind. To love with the heart of an ancestor, no clansman in this world is unfriendly. To love with the heart of Heaven and Earth, no creature in this world is unlovable.” (1)
“Little children, I am with you only a little longer. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13: 33 – 35)
The above words are the beginning of Jesus' 'Last Discourse.' In a general way we can say these words are Jesus' 'last will and testament,' the most important words he spoke to his beloved disciples shortly before he left this world. We can imagine that when Jesus said these words his heart was full of tenderness, some sadness, but also a glimmer of hope.
In these parting words what Jesus wanted us to remember and carry out in our lives was that 'we must love one another.' He said this was a 'new' commandment. Actually what was 'new' about this commandment? Could it be that the old laws or the Old Testament did not teach people to love one another? Did not non-believers know how to love each other? In what way was Jesus' commandment 'new'?
What was 'new' about this commandment was the original and unique way in which we are to love. That is to say, we not only are to love one another, and certainly not in the way in which popular songs sing about 'love,' but we are to love in the same way Jesus has loved us. We must love others 'as I have loved you.'
If we examine carefully how Jesus loves us human beings, we will discover that the manner in which he loves us is indeed 'new' and special.
First, Jesus loves us even though we are still sinners. Secondly, Jesus loves us who are not lovable at all. Third, Jesus loves us unconditionally, and fourth, for love of us he was even willing to die on the cross. He 'became' total, complete and limitless love. In his own words he said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (Jn 15:13) And originally we could not even qualify as his friends!
Many people in the world love other people, usually because they are 'lovable.' Jesus loves us not because we are lovable but because he IS love. Whether we are lovable or not, he wants to love us. The female writer Bing Xin once asked her mother, “Mother, why do you love me?” Her mother answered simply, “Not for any reason, it is only because you are my daughter.” That kind of love, with no need for reasons, is a little like the way in which Jesus loves us.
A mother loves her daughter because there is an inseparable link between her and her daughter, because there is a flesh-and-blood relationship, because there is a bond starting from the mother's long months of pregnancy followed by several years nursing her child. There is not that kind of relationship between Jesus and us. Still Jesus loves all of us and each one of us without any exception.
Those who are Christians must love others as Jesus loves. That is the 'new commandment', a 'command' we have no choice but to follow. We must love one another according to the way in which Jesus has loved -deeply, intimately, earnestly.
The “new heaven and new earth” we read about in today's second reading from the Book of Revelation is where “death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” This new heaven and new earth must be filled with love, filled with the kind of love that Jesus has shown us. There there is only appreciation and no pettiness, understanding and no blame, sharing but no possessiveness, no hatred but only love. There the manner of loving surpasses all other, because it is the love of the Lord of heaven and earth.
Jin Ying of the Tsing Dynasty recorded these lines in his 'Maxims of Jade': “To love with the heart of a parent, no brother in this world is unkind. To love with the heart of an ancestor, no clansman in this world is unfriendly. To love with the heart of Heaven and Earth, no creature in this world is unlovable.” (1)
The heart of Jesus is all-embracing and universal. For those who love with that kind of heart there is no one in the world who is unlovable. That is the new heaven and new earth with the foundation based on love.
The church, the Mystical Body of Christ, has become a new people known by the sign of love: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” The sign that we are Christ's disciples is not that we wear a crucifix or hold a rosary in our hands, even less that we have a baptismal certificate. We are disciples of Christ not because we participate in the Eucharist on Sunday, or because we belong to a Christian family. None of these is the essential point. The one and only sign of a Christian is 'love,' love for one another in the manner of Christ's love.
This new humanity of the church must take up the responsibility of building up the new heaven and new earth. We must become artisans of a renewed humanity. Each person must begin with oneself and, imbued with the spirit of Jesus' love, spread the new commandment of love throughout the entire universe, so that all people and all created things are enveloped in the love of the Lord of creation.