During these Sundays of the Easter Season, the Church takes us back to the Last Supper, giving us a chance to dig deeper into its meaning.
Throughout his Last Supper discourse, Christ’s constant refrain is: if you love me, you will keep my commandment. That commandment is to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34), the commandment of Christian charity.
These are his parting words to his closest disciples, the last flow of love from his Sacred Heart before it is broken and pierced.
Jesus knows that these twelve men are normal, fallen human beings. They are weak and ignorant, stubborn, and headstrong. And yet, he also knows that they truly love him. They want to be his disciples. They are just like us: flawed, but committed.
He earnestly desires to teach them how to live out their commitment to him, and so he gives them his new commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. That is the mark of a Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ.
It’s not in pretty words, fancy rituals, and complicated prayers. It’s in following the example of Christ, who gave his life for us on the cross. To give our lives, leaving behind our comfort zones in order to help our neighbors and build a better world, to be truthful, responsible, honest, pure, and faithful even when it feels like we’re being crucified, that’s how we follow Christ. This is the path to loving him and living life to the full.
It was the path he taught his Apostles, it’s the path he teaches us, and it’s the path he blazed before us by his passion, death, and resurrection.
When we look at our lives to see how we have been living out this greatest commandment, the one Christ cares most about, what do we see?
At first glance, it seems like we are doing pretty well. In general, we are kind and polite – we are nice people. Niceness is one of our society’s greatest achievements. And it is an achievement. Being civil, considerate, kind, and polite is one effective way of loving one another – Christ did the same.
But how deep does it really go?
But a second glance shows plenty of room for improvement, especially in our words.
Our society loves to talk about other people’s failings. Our news and entertainment industries are built on scandal and detraction. Is that loving one another as Christ loved us?
Jesus was full of mercy and compassion, more eager to forgive and cover up people’s faults than to broadcast them. When we gloat over others’ failings, we are doing the exact opposite.
Christ thinks well of us. Christ speaks well of us, seeing the good we can do and the saints we can become. He keeps the sins and failings in the confessional. He never spreads them around. We can’t always control our spontaneous thoughts. Our fallen, selfish nature will often fixate on the speck in our neighbors’ eyes even when we still have a log in our own eye. But we can always control what we say about others.
This week, let’s show Jesus our love for him by speaking well of others, just as he spoke well of his enemies on the cross, when he prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
If we make an effort to love him in this way, he will help us. And if we persevere, he will, as he promised, reward us.