"This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."
In the space of just a few sentences, Jesus twice commands us to love one another. And not just to love one another, but to love one another "as I love you." Jesus posed this tenet thousands of years ago. So the question that I can’t seem to get out of my head is, how we doin’ so far?
Tonight on the news I heard about murders and assaults, robberies, fraud, war, adultery, terrorism, torture, and hate crimes. (That was all before the broadcast even got to the weather). In my very ordinary day, I overheard some nasty gossip. I even witnessed some truly bad behavior between neighbors. Certainly, my own transgressions could add to this list.
But that’s not the whole story of course. There were also the stories of the rescue workers in the wake of the Missouri tornados who risked their own lives to bring others to safety. There was the very silly celebrity giving a very serious quarter million dollar check to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. There was a mom of little means who has opened up her home to over 20 foster kids. My favorite had to be the young woman who-presumably wasting time on her twitter account- heard about someone in need of a kidney, got tested, matched, and is donating her kidney to this complete stranger.
So where does that leave us? Unfortunately, somewhere in between. As is evident from the news stories I mentioned above, there is not a day that goes by where some or all of us aren’t failing at following this commandment. Certainly, we are in need of more of what Christ simply calls "love." What really strikes me from the words of the gospel is the undeniable sense that we are being called to action. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." Of course, this supreme surrender is not something that will be asked of most people. But the call to give of oneself is clear.
Jesus is not asking us to simply think warmly about our neighbors, to be nice to our neighbors, to occasionally help our neighbors. We are being asked to give love. Love is hard work. It’s not a fuzzy feeling, contrary to what we see on television and hear on the radio. It means putting someone else before yourself. It means doing things you may not want to do. It means going out of your way for someone else. It may even mean doing all of this when you may not particularly like your neighbor.
There are also no qualifiers on this commandment. Apparently, we are to love our neighbors even when they fail us, when they are hurtful, and even when they don’t love us. Christ did not leave loopholes. But the glorious message is that this is how Christ loves us-wholly, fully, unconditionally.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago.