5th Friday of Easter Time
Acts 15: 22 – 31; Ps 57; John 15; 12 – 17
In John chapter 6, Jesus proclaimed, “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” The reaction of many of His disciples was immediate and strong, “This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously?” And then they acted upon their words: they broke away and did not follow Him any longer.
In today’s passage from St. John’s Gospel, there is also a hard saying – perhaps, not at first hearing – but upon reflection we hear its unconditional demand. Jesus said, “This is My commandment: love another as I love you.” He repeated it, “This I command you: love one another.” It is not a suggestion – Jesus does not say, “Consider this” – rather most clearly and very pointedly – “I command you…”
The Lord does not allow us to decide how we will fulfill this command – His words make this most clear: “Love one another AS I LOVE YOU.” He is the teacher, the Lord and the exemplar. The love of the Lord Jesus is total, complete, perfect, admits no conditions, no rationalizations; there are no personal decisions on our part. In the account of the Last Supper, St. John reports: “He (Jesus) had loved His own in the world, and would love them to the end.” “To the end” – that phrase in Greek can also mean “perfectly.” Surely St. John meant both and Jesus did both – faithful to death on the cross and with a totality, a perfection beyond our comprehension.
Many disciples left Jesus because of His words “too hard to endure” and Jesus, for their sake, did not go back on His teaching, did not water it down, made no exceptions. It is possible for us that in hearing Jesus command about loving as He loves – we distance ourselves – we do not cease to follow and at the same time, decide on our own how to love, whom we will love, to what extent our love goes. In so doing, our faith is questionable as is our obedience to the Lord.
It is a profound challenge to love as Jesus loved – in fact, it is beyond our ability left to ourselves. It can only done by His grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit. For most of us it is hard work life long – and perhaps, our prayer comes down to this: “Lord, grant me the desire to desire to love as You love ‘to the end’.”