If the words a father pronounces on his deathbed can never be forgotten, how should we feel about the words of a man who is God?
Let us take them very seriously and try together to understand them in depth.
Jesus was about to die, and what he said reflected this. Because of his imminent departure, one problem was foremost in his mind: how could he remain among his own and take care of the growing Church?
You may know that Jesus is present in the sacraments. In the Mass, for instance, he becomes truly present in the Eucharist.
But Jesus is also present wherever there are people who live mutual love (see Mt 18:20). In this way he can continue to be actively present in a community deeply rooted in mutual love. And through the community, he can continue to reveal himself to the world and make his influence felt.
Isn’t this splendid? Doesn’t this make you want to start right now to live this love with your fellow Christians?
According to St. John, who put down the words we are now meditating on, mutual love is the foremost commandment of the Church, whose vocation is, in fact, to be communion, to be unity.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Right after pronouncing these words, Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). So if you want to know the true mark of authentic disciples of Christ and their distinctive characteristic, you will find it in the mutual love they live. Christians are recognized by this sign. If it is missing, the world will no longer be able to find Jesus in the Church.
In this same farewell, Jesus called this commandment “his.” It is his and is therefore particularly close to his heart. You should not simply take it as a norm or a rule to follow or just another commandment. Here Jesus wants to reveal a way of life to you. He wants to give you something upon which you can build your life. The first Christians in fact placed this commandment at the basis of their lives.
Before going to work, before studying, before going to Mass, before starting any activity, make sure that there is mutual love between you and whoever is with you. If there is, then everything you do is worthwhile. Without this foundation nothing is pleasing to God.
Jesus also said that this commandment was “new” — “I give you a new commandment.”
Did he mean that this commandment was previously unknown? No. “New” indicated that it belonged to the “new era.”
And with what kind of love did he love us? Jesus died for us. Therefore he loved us in the greatest way possible; not with a love like ours — his love was, and is, divine. He loved us with the same love with which he and the Father love each other.
We have to love one another with this same love in order to carry out the “new” commandment. However, as human beings, you and I do not possess this kind of love, but happily, as Christians, we have received it. The Holy Spirit has instilled it in our hearts, and in the hearts of all believers.
There is, therefore, an affinity among the Father, the Son and us Christians, because of this unique, divine love which we possess. It is this love that introduces us into the life of the Holy Trinity. It is this love that makes us children of God.
This love is a bond uniting heaven and earth in a dynamic way. By means of this love, the Christian community shares in God’s life and God dwells on earth, wherever believers love one another.
Don’t you feel that all this is infinitely beautiful and that Christian life is marvelously fascinating?
– Chiara Lubich
Each month a Scripture passage is offered as a guide and inspiration for daily living. This commentary, translated into 96 different languages and dialects, reaches several million people worldwide through print, radio, television and the Internet. Ever since the Focolare’s beginnings, founder Chiara Lubich (1920–2008) wrote her commentaries each month. This one was originally published in May 1980 and addressed to a mainly Christian audience.
This monthly leaflet is a supplement to Living City, the Focolare magazine (livingcitymagazine.com). People’s life experiences as they put the monthly sentence into practice can be read in Living City or in books published by New City Press (newcitypress.com).
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© 2014 by Living City of the Focolare Movement, Inc.
Read more on this topic:
- Lubich, Chiara. The Pearl of the Gospel, ed. Bill Hartnett. Hyde Park: New City Press, 2013.
- Lubich, Chiara. “If your eye is simple,” Essential Writings. Hyde Park: New City Press, 2007, p80.
- Rosse, Gerard, “Mutual Love,” The Spirituality of Communion. Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998, p68.
“On behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”(2 Cor. 5:20).