“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.”
-John 13:34 – 35
Those of us who love Broadway musicals usually rave over Fiddler on the Roof. One the more memorial scenes takes place when Tevye, the main character, a peasant Russian Jew with daughters to marry off, realizes that the old ways of arranging marriages are not working. The daughters want to marry for love. As he talks over this unheard-of demand from his daughters with his wife, Golde, he asks her, “Do you love me?” Golde’s response resonates with many of us. She does not answer with a simple yes or no. She answers like so many of us would do. She lists the things she does for him every day, day in and day out, normal things, difficult things, even putting up with his faults. At the end, she says, “I suppose so.”
St. Paul, writing to the Romans, says, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8) We all get it. “Love” as taught by Jesus and the Church is at the heart of our Christian life. It is the foundation of our Spiritual life. It is the basis of our ethical and moral life. No one has to interpret what Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” And to even bring more clarity, he continues, “As I love you, love one another.”
Only if it were so easy to love as Jesus loves! Jesus loves us unconditionally. We generally love with conditions and strings attached. Jesus shows us how to love. We generally love selectively. Jesus expresses his love for us by dying on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. We struggle to connect love and forgiveness in real life. Loving others as Jesus loves is hard!
It is easy to look at real life as it unfolds and describe the realities of hate, exclusion, hoarding, unjust treatments of human beings, the passion of the earth, hateful words, lies that cover up crimes, homicides and genocides. Every time we make an examination of conscious, our list grows. Even the ones who say they make Jesus the center of their lives find themselves despising, dividing, lying, cheating (the list could go on), in plain sight. Loving others as Jesus loves us is hard!
Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean that we are to give up. When Jesus gave us the new commandment to love one another as he loves, he also gave us the resources we need to love one another as he commands. While we love as individuals, we belong to a community. The more we embrace the communities that we are members of, the more connected we are to the whole of humanity, the whole of creation. One Creator means one creation, and God is our common bond. The worshipping community, the Word of God, the Sacraments and all of the other sources of grace that surround us is what makes our commitment to love possible.
We can love the way Jesus loves because God has loved us first! Love is our redemption.
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.