- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

May 19, 2019

Fr. Gerard D’Souza, OCSO

5th Sunday of Easter Time

I give you a new commandment. Growing up, the Ten Commandments I am sure were dinned into our heads. What usually bounced off me, or maybe went in one ear and out the other was that was this new commandment. Not opinion or suggestion but a commandment. I have realized why it bounced off me – because I suspected it was impossible to keep this. If I were to take it seriously I would never be able to measure up. In short if you want to know what it means to be a sinner and what the holiness and purity of God is – I would recommend staying with this commandment. Love one another as I have loved you.

Jesus has just washed the feet of Judas. He gave him sacramentally His Body and His Blood. He literally put Himself into Judas’ hands. What does Judas do? He goes into the night to betray Jesus. It is in this setting that we must hear Jesus – I give you a new commandment – Love one another as I have loved you. Love one another – not in any which way – but as I have loved you. It is this sort of love that is so forbidding. The feeling of falling in love and being love – this feeling is what is heady and exhilarating. While the feeling of being in love lasts nothing is impossible or nothing feels impossible. The problem begins when the feelings go away. For most of us that is when love stops. At least we think it stops. But this is not love. When we equate this with true love, we end up looking to use each other for our own gratification. Bernanos – he made the discovery that in human love each one takes from the other only what nourishes his own passion: that we are aren’t really looking for a true exchange but for a poison, a drug with which to narcotize our interior boredom and disgust with existence and thus flee from the horrible truth.

Jesus is redefining love today – it is not a feeling but an action. Love one another as I have loved you. Since He loves us unto death. This is exactly what He is asking of us. Love lies in self-sacrifice. It does not lie in the feelings. It lies in putting someone else, not just your blood relatives, or your friends, your race but launching out into the deep – being ready to love your neighbor who is every one and anyone.

Fear is the great enemy of love. Born with original sin which at its heart is the rupture of the relationship with God and each other, life is a zero sum game for us. If you win, I lose. So our so called love turns out to be a mutual using of each other. A détente where we are formal and polite with each other but not loving. Each of us assured that our territory will not be invaded or that our flight patterns of avoidance will not be interrupted so that we can keep up the charade for the world. Fear is the key that keeps this is place. It makes us retreat rather than as someone put it beautifully, filling the space between each other with true care. Fear is understandable because we live with the fear of death. And love demands death. And this is why we stay away from this sort of love.

Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus asks so much of us, not because we can do it but because He can do it in us. The second reading gives us the key – I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth has passed away. And the sea was no more. The resurrection of Jesus has broken open the world of the zero sum game. The sea was no more. For the Hebrews as for all the ancient people – the sea was the element that threatened them. It was the place of fear and terror and chaos. This place of terror is gone. We truly live in a new world by faith.

Our feelings are usually conditioned by the old world, the world of the zero sum game. But we are immersed in this new world, its energy which is love is available to us. For we are married to God – behold God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will always be with them as their God. True, fear and unrelieved chaos haunts our imagination, dogs our footsteps, hems us in. But the fact is we are not imprisoned in this charmed circle. Feelings are not facts. Our feelings tells us one thing but God provides the facts. The old order has passed away. Behold I make all things new. But this can only be accessed by faith and risk – not by remaining in our comfort zones. If we seek to enter into the resurrection here on earth – then the resurrection is always found in and through the cross this side of the grave. There is no short cut.

To each one of us this new commandment is addressed this morning. Love one another as I have loved you.