I want to break free = love others as Christ has loved us
“I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you,” It’s enough to drive a good person crazy. We try hard to love, but some people are just “stupid”, ungrateful or evil.
Why does Jesus do this to us? Maybe I fell out of bed on the wrong side, but I sense that many good people might also feel overwhelmed, frustrated or annoyed by this commandment.
Could it be because it’s the only pathway to reach true freedom for ourselves? Sure, we can be quite happy for a while when we ignore this commandment. But, every little bit of non-love in the world, has a consequence on the world. And the world will eventually touch us back.
The only way we can come to understand this commandment perfectly is by dying. Fr Richard Rohr OFM, talks about the need to “die” before we can really understand the joy of living. We all know: we don’t really appreciate Mum until we leave home.
In the same way we will never understand the positive of acting out this commandment to love, until we actually do it. To love is not the same as LIKING someone. We can still love people we prefer to avoid or whom we are angry with for a time: just ask our mothers/fathers!
It’s helpful to check the context of this Gospel: and that is easy, because we heard that: “Judas has just left the building”. Jesus knew he was going out to betray him. Wow! Jesus knew for a long time that Judas was cheating the system – corruption!
Corruption is a particular challenge to me this week because I’m feeling quite frustrated by all the corruption around us: some ordinary Government officers suddenly owning large house; innocent employees forced to pay their immediate bosses $30 a month or lose their job; etc.
So, I’m not feeling very loving toward corrupt people. Yet, Jesus is calling me to love them. Why? What could possibly explain it?
I guess, first of all, I have to admit I also need forgiveness. Secondly, a transformed and redeemed corrupt person can be a powerful force for good in our community.
Thirdly, sometimes people are trapped in a system where the only way they can survive – other than leaving – is by being part of the corrupt system. If they leave, who will feed their family.
Fourthly, if we throw out all the corrupt officials there will be no one left who can do the job! And, if truth be known, I’m probably corrupt in my own way.
In our Gospel, Jesus says: “‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,” what does that mean? Is God wanting praise? No, it’s best to think of a builder. The builder is so happy when the occupier moves in and uses the house.
It seems we know about glory for ourselves – we love it! – but how do we give glory to God? As a young person I used to think, “to give glory,” meant bowing and scraping. But St Irenaeus famously said: “…the glory of God is man fully alive.”
This helps us realise that we give glory to God by being the best that we can be. When we see sportsmen and women excelling, we see the glory of God revealed. And, today, Jesus maximises his humanity by showing his love for one who has betrayed him.
I have to say, many of our young people in Kenya have been inspirational to me by the way they have forgiven and loved their fathers or other family members who have hurt them, or betrayed them by wasting the family money on drinking or laziness.
We are reliably taught from very early Church history – written by a non-Christian – how people were amazed by the Christians during the plagues: they cared for one another, despite the danger of catching the virus or disease that was killing many people. Perhaps they thought: “if I die, it’s OK. God is there to catch me.” That is freedom.
These simple, but counter-cultural, actions impressed many people – words backed by actions. By our actions of love we, like Paul and Barnabas, we put fresh heart into people to do good.
Today my prayer for you is not that you will be able to love better, but that you will gain a greater freedom to accept yourself, so that you can respond with love even when criticised.
Let’s continue to be gentle people of the Resurrection, giving glory to God. Happy Easter!
By Gerard Conlan, OMI
Picture caption: USA prisoners volunteer to help the dying, and receive another chance at living.