When Judas had gone Jesus said: ‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon. My little children, I shall not be with you much longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples’.
This profound Gospel is at the heart of what it means to be fully human and it is the essence of true Christian discipleship. In giving to his disciples “a new commandment” Jesus encapsulates the essence of the Ten Commandments i.e. a love of God and a love of neighbour. There is a vast difference between the love for God and neighbour and the love of things. Sadly we live in a society which has become preoccupied with self-satisfaction and self-gratification, a society in which we love things and use people rather than loving people and using things.
The righteous heart however is always set on God and others. As the heart of Christ was open in obedient love to the Father, so too should our hearts be the same. Jesus’ love was a sacrificial love, he gave his life to redeem us so that we can share in eternal life. “No greater love can a man have for his friends than to lay down his life for them” (John 15:13). He calls each of us to be sacrificial like him, so that we can be a reflection of his love. Put simply, this call to sacrifice is a call to true Christian discipleship, marked by faithful service, and at times suffering. In the Gospels Jesus reminds us that we will discover true peace and happiness in this kind of love and selfless service, while a selfish life will only lead to unhappiness.
The word for love is agape in Greek or caritas in Latin and it is traditionally translated to charity in English. We need to use the word love cautiously because it can become rather well worn, tired or vague. It shouldn’t however because love is liberating and empowering, and it is love that marks us as Christian disciples.
Love is the light – and in the end, the only light – that can always illuminate a world grown dim and gives us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God.
Deus Caritas Est n.39