Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
“I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you”. Is it possible for us? When Christ hung dying on the Cross, despite His earlier betrayal, arrest, humiliation, beatings and torture; despite suffering the most painful of death and being taunted and tormented by His executioners, nevertheless, his love was unfailing and asked for forgiveness on behalf of these people. We are asked to do the same: we are asked to forgive others just as He forgave us, when we recite the prayer He taught us, we seek His forgiveness and promise to forgive others. He taught us to “Love one another as I have loved you”. Yet, when we consider both of these teachings from our Lord, to love one another and to forgive whatever hurt is done to us, we cannot help but wonder whether it is at all possible. Being human, we are subject to human failings. When we are hurt, we often feel resentment, ill-will and perhaps vengeance. Forgiveness might be very difficult an emotion for us when the pain is still fresh and raw. And in time, as the memories of the hurt and pains come back we may still find it hard to forgive.
Jesus said it will be possible. How will it be possible? He said “If you love me you will keep my Commandments”. I ask always when children come to confession if they believe that Jesus loves them. They say, “yes” they know that Jesus loves them. Then I ask them do you love Jesus? They say, “yes” they love Jesus. I tell them to love Jesus is not to sin. Loving Jesus therefore is not just something emotional; loving Jesus means changing our lives, reforming our lives, working on our personalities and characters, overcoming sinful habits, stretching ourselves to love as Jesus loved. Loving Jesus means thinking about ourselves and others as Jesus does. Where does your information about yourself and others and the world come from? If it comes only from TV and a materialistic western culture which does not understand the difference between freedom to sin and the freedom to do what is right, our minds may be contaminated by false images of ourselves, others and the world. But if we truly want to love Jesus, we will fill our minds with his thoughts and his way of looking at the world. We can fill our minds with Jesus’ thoughts by reading the Bible, reading spiritual books and praying as much as possible every day. We cannot love Jesus if we fill our minds with the filth of the world, it would be impossible and it would be impossible to keep his commandments. Let us fill our minds with the thoughts of Jesus so that we may love him and keep his commandments. Again the words of Jesus are, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) We cannot have both a pure love of Jesus and sin in our lives at the same time. As Jesus said in Matt 6:24, “We cannot be the slave of two masters.” Truly, loving Jesus leads us to give up whatever in our lives draws us away from Jesus. Truly, loving Jesus leads us to making changes in the way we live and think and act.
I would like to ask a question to you, who are parents here. When was the last time you said to your children to be a good friend to his or her classmates? All we tell them is to choose good friends, to be a good friend. What Jesus asks us today is to be a good friend to others all the time. The qualities we normally expect from our friends are trust, mutuality, faithfulness, equality, forgiveness, joy and sacrifice. Jesus offers us all these qualities in our friendship with him. As a friend, Jesus has trusted us by sharing with us everything that he has heard from his Father. Hence, we have to trust him as a friend by listening to him through the Bible and talking to him by prayer. As our friend, Jesus will be always faithful to us. Let us return this fidelity by being faithful to him in doing His will. By calling us his friends, Jesus makes us equal to him. Let us be proud of this and lead lives worthy of our unique status. As an understanding friend, Jesus is ready to forgive us time and time again. Let us also forgive those who offend us. As a friend, Christ has told us everything so that our joy might be complete in him. Let us enjoy Jesus’ Divine friendship. Jesus declared that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. He has done it for us. Hence, let us also love others sacrificially.
Jesus demonstrated his love for us by living for us and dying for us. Hence, as his disciples, we are to be persons for others, sacrificing our time, talents and lives for others. This is what parents spontaneously do for their children by sacrificing themselves, their time, talents, health and wealth for them. That is, they “spend” themselves for their children. The most effective way of communicating God’s love to others is by treating everyone as a friend, giving each the respect he or she deserves as a human being, God’s creation. In moments of trial and stress, when people are hostile or ungrateful and we feel the pull of bitter resentment in our hearts, it is important for us to remember that Christ’s own love was not limited to the people he liked. Hence, we should close our minds to thoughts of revenge.
God Bless You,