In the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel we read the following profound words:
“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
Jesus spoke these words to his beloved followers in the upper room on the night before he died. We call these special chapters of John’s Gospel, chapters 13 through 17, the “farewell discourse” of Jesus. In these special chapters Jesus is opening his heart to those he loves and to whom he will entrust the task of proclaiming the Gospel and forming the early community of the faithful itself. As one preacher put it years ago: “When a person is about to die, he or she doesn’t talk about sports or the weather; rather, he talks about what is most precious in his heart.” And what did Jesus share with his disciples when he poured out his heart to them…and to us? “As I have loved you, so you should love one another.”
This is Jesus final farewell and the roadmap he bequeaths to us and his apostles. The foundation of the Church, about to be born on Pentecost, must be a foundation of love. We will be known by all around us that we are disciples of Jesus if we have love for one another. Of course, there are other messages being proclaimed these days; other roadmaps that some think will “make America great,” for example. And of course, with one heart and one voice we all say, “Yes, we must make America great once again, as in days past.” And how is this to happen? Surely not because we have more weapons of destruction than anyone else. And surely not because the stock market is soaring upwards! And not even because gas is as cheap as it was three decades ago! No! That is not our roadmap; that is not the pathway that Jesus shared with us on the night before he died. Rather, he simply said to his most beloved, as he says to us this very day: “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” That’s it, there is the path we must follow no matter what else happens around us. It’s that simple, and that terrifying, as well. We must love one another. And if we do, then all will know that we are his disciples. But only, dear friends, if we have love for one another.
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P. is the director of Saint Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.