There are some readings in scripture that are particularly beautiful to read. The words just flow off the tongue. This is due to the poetic style of the writing and because of their familiarity, and perhaps because somewhere inside we know scripture is a way that God lets us know He cares for us. At first read, these quotations make us feel good, kind of warm and fuzzy.
I think that’s the way it is with today’s Gospel. “Love one another as I love you.” What could be more feel good than that? But wait a minute. This Reading from John is a lot more than a feel good poem. It is the supreme challenge to us. What does it mean to love one another? What exactly is it that Jesus is telling us to do? Love each other as He loved us. Pretty difficult to put our love for one another on the same level with the way Jesus loves us. Just look at his life – he dined with tax collectors and sinners, he embraced the beggar, cared about the possessed, kept no possessions and finally died on the cross all out of love. And He forgave us.
I think the forgiving of each other is the hardest part. All of us have been badly hurt by someone in our lives– a spouse, a sibling, a co-worker. Sometimes our trust has been betrayed. Forgiving isn’t an easy task. We are amazed and inspired when we hear of the family of a victim of violence who forgives the person who committed the crime. Forgiving isn’t an easy task. In a world filled with violence, with terrorism, with prejudice, and with injustice, we are called to forgive. But forgiving isn’t an easy task. We are supposed to forgive the guy who cuts us off in traffic, the rude clerk in the store, the bully in school and all the others who often make our daily life difficult. Forgiving isn’t an easy task.
But here’s the thing. No place in scripture does it say that being a Christian is easy. Jesus calls us friend not slave and because of this, as Christians, we will continue to try to forgive, to love one another. And through our forgiveness and love of one another, we will bear much fruit, and the Kingdom of God will flourish and grow throughout the earth.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.