Liturgical Year C

The Fifth Sunday of Easter; An over-used word

“A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13,34). That is the central idea of this Sunday's Gospel. If you take a look at yourself and around you, it seems like the most utopian, even the most impractical, Jesus' commandment. Love one another as I have loved you?! It seems like we follow it even less than loving our enemies. The great German Christian author Anselm Grün says at the beginning of his book Angels of grace: “Love is such an over-used word that I am wary of putting it at the beginning of the list of fifty angels. Pop songs sing about love. Everything revolves around love. Many people connect love with the idea of fulfilled sexuality. But however much the word is abused, in the depths of our heart everyone of us longs for love. We want someone to love us unconditionally.”

Indeed, for a person it is very important to feel love, care and support of another person. It is very hard to work, raise children and love others without it. Often we are not aware how important for us it is to be loved. When a person finally starts to believe that God loves him/her, that God is compassionate, that he/she is a wanted and loved God's child, it is a huge step in his/her life. To some of us it is very hard to accept God's love, but actually it should be easy thing to do. This is such a strong message and all we need is to understand and believe it. Of course, it's a hard thing to do with people! To show, accept and give love – so hard. Christians are no exception. 

In one of his books Anthony de Mello shows us this example: “There was a woman in a therapy group I was conducting once. She was a religious sister. She said to me, "I don't feel supported by my superior". So I said, "What do you mean by that"? And she said, "Well, my superior, the provincial superior, never shows up at the novitiate where I am in charge, never. She never says a word of appreciation". I said to her, "All right let's do a little role playing. Pretend I know your provincial superior. In fact, pretend I know exactly what she thinks about you. So I say to you (acting the part of the provincial superior), 'You know, Mary, the reason I don't come to that place you're in is because it is the one place in the province that is trouble-free, no problems. I know you're in charge, so all is well.' How do you feel now"? She said, "I feel great". Then I said to her, "All right, would you mind leaving the room for a minute or two? This is part of the exercise". So she did. While she was away, I said to the others in the therapy group, "I am still the provincial superior, O.K.? Mary out there is the worst novice director I have ever had in the whole history of the province. I n fact, the reason I don't go to the novitiate is because I can't bear to see what she is up to. It's simply awful. But if I tell her the truth, it's only going to make those novices suffer all the more. We are getting somebody to take her place in a year or two; we are training someone. In the meantime I thought I would say those nice things to her to keep her going. What do you think of that"? They answered, "Well, it was really the only thing you could do under the circumstances". Then I brought Mary back into the group and asked her if she still felt great. "Oh yes", she said. Poor Mary!”

We are looking for love and support. When they are gone, our work, actually our life in general, seems so difficult. Deep inside each person needs to be loved, accepted, appreciated and free – these needs are important to each person. It all starts from the first one. Many people have a problem with it because they haven't experienced either their parents' love or God's love. They know about falling in love, parents' care and, maybe, the fear of God. That is not enough for loving truly and selflessly. Many grown-up people are not able to give love because they haven't experienced it when they needed it, at least not enough. With his commandments of love Jesus, once again, touches the heart of every human being. The thing is that most people are superficial about themselves and the others, they don't see or don't dare to see beyond the surface. Then we pretend to love, then we act weird, then we are easily offended or provoked, then we shut ourselves and are afraid to look for God's infinite love. Moreover, what we fear most is to open ourselves to others. 

Here again we should follow the great example Jesus gave us. Generally, he tells that to those he has chosen to be his disciples, friends and companions, to those he chose to love. He doesn't leave us even when we leave him. He didn't stop loving his disciples when they abandoned him. He gave them proofs of his love, but he wants an honest answer. This is the moment when he asks Peter the same question three times: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (see Jn 21,15). He sent them the greatest proof of his love after he had ascended to the Father. Another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is coming upon them. The Holy Spirit comes with his gifts of strength, wisdom, boldness, hope and faith. Sending God's Spirit of love is celebrated every year on the feast day of Pentecost. Saint Paul, who was a witness of love brought by the Holy Spirit, in his first epistle to the Corinthians talks about gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit: “Eagerly desire the greater gifts... But the greatest of these is love” (see 1 Cor 12,31; 13,13).

Bruxelles, 6 May 2007

26.04.2013.Author: p. Antun Volenik, SJ
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