5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER – C
LOVE is probably the most used, abused and misused word to which we attach different meanings! Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (God is Love) teaches us many things about love. We say love to mean a lot of things. We say: “I love my father, mother, brothers, sisters, my friends”, etc. We also say “I love my pet; I love ice cream; I love my clothes and gadgets; I love my country; I love the weather; I love my home, garden, room”, etc. We use the word “love” when we refer to a feeling of affection towards almost anything. In the truest sense of the word, we can only love a fellow human being because love involves a personal relationship with another person. Maybe we still need to invent another word other than love to refer to our feeling towards other objects and things.
In “Deus Caritas Est” there are three kinds of human love based on the Scriptures: eros (erotic love), philia (love of friendship) and agape (love of God).
On the night before Jesus died, he left us a new commandment: “Love one another”. One might think that there is nothing new with it because we already love other people in different ways and in varying degrees. It is because loving is a natural appetite that we share in common as human beings, regardless of religion and race. The novel thing with Jesus’ new commandment is the basis of loving: “Just as I have loved you.” Now that is radical and almost explosive! Whereas before, we use ourselves as the standard of loving others “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”, this time the new standard is Jesus’ love for us.
This new commandment of love transcends feeling, affection and affinity. I love you not just because you are lovable, because you are attractive, because you are my family or friend or because you love me, too. My loving now hinges on the love of Jesus to me: I will love you the way I am loved by Jesus. I will love you because of my love for Jesus. This kind of love finds it expression between Mary and John on the cross. Mary loved Jesus. John loved Jesus. Their love for Jesus brought them together beneath the cross. This was the birth of the Church: when strangers who in their common love of Jesus come together and form a communion of love. This is also the basis of those who enter a religious order or congregation: they come together out of their love for Jesus by living a common life based on that love. That does not mean they give up loving. They still love but not anymore the natural the love of husband and wife but a supernatural love for others founded on Jesus.
Since this Christian love is not based on affection, feeling or affinity, then we can love another person even if we do not like him/her. We can love other people from different faiths and cultures and even strangers. This is the love that surpasses boundaries and transcends even time and space.
This new commandment of love is expressed in the concrete acts of good works towards others. Charity is love in action. We cannot say we love God without expressing that love in uplifting the lives of the poor, helping the marginalized, fighting justice for the oppressed and consoling the outcast.
Christian's love is radical. It is a call: to break our hearts for the sake of those we love and to continue loving despite our broken hearts!