In the Gospel today, Jesus sums up Christian discipleship in three, simple words: “love one another.” Because, at the end of the day, when the doctrine has been debated, the prayers have been prayed, traditions lived out, hymns have been sung, and the liturgies celebrated, we are left with just one thing: love.
But, what is ‘love’? After all, I love my wife and family. I loved my job. I love my Fighting Irish and would love to see a national championship someday. I love good food and love sharing it with good friends. The word ‘love’ has different meanings depending on how we use it. And to make it harder, Jesus redefined love when he said “love one another, as I have loved you”. So, how did Jesus “love”?
Jesus showed us love is sacrificial. At the very heart of our Christian faith is the fact that Jesus died on the cross; not some empty, meaningless, failing type of death, but a death that won a significant victory over the power of sin and death so that we could live in a beautiful relationship with God. There was no limit to Jesus’ sacrifice – because there was no limit to his love for us. Jesus gave up everything so we could live: He gave up his birthright, his power, his majesty, his glory, his own life. Jesus didn’t just make sacrifices for us. He became a sacrifice for us.
Jesus showed us love is unconditional. We constantly make a mess of our lives. But, God loves us anyway. Jesus didn’t set conditions on his love. He never said that we need to do something first in order for him to love us. He never waited until we had proved ourselves worthy of love. Jesus’ love was absolutely unconditional.
Jesus showed us love is practical. There are many poems and love songs written to express the emotion of love. But in reality, love is intensely practical. Like the hospice nurse caring for a dying patient. The mother cleaning up after her sick child in the middle of the night. The food pantry volunteer listening to a client and providing for their needs. The father working two jobs to take care of his family. And parents sacrificing their own dreams for the sake of their children. Jesus’ death on the cross was intensely practical. It wasn’t a glorious; he was alone, he was in pain, he had to grit his teeth and just get on with it. That is practical love in action.
We are called to love as Jesus loved. It is not easy, but loving as Jesus loved must be the hallmark of our church and our own lives. As St. Paul said, if we don’t have love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Without love, our worship is empty, our hymn singing is empty, and all the activities of our church and life are meaningless. As we prepare for the week ahead, may we pray for the grace to follow the example Jesus set, and fulfil His commandment to love each other as he loves us.