1st Reading: Acts 14:21-27
Paul situates Jesus as the goal of the history of God’s people
Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’
Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.”
“My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him.”
Responsorial: Psalm 144: 8-13
R./: I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God
The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures. (R./)
All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
and declare your might, O God,
to make known to men your mighty deeds
and the glorious splendour of your reign. (R./)
Yours is an everlasting kingdom;
your rule lasts from age to age. (R./)
2nd Reading: Revelation 21:1-5
The vision of a new world, portrayed as the new, heavenly Jerusalem
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Gospel: John 13:31-35
Jesus gives the new commandment, to love one another
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Is such love really possible?
Was the Last-Supper commandment of Jesus to love one another really all that new. Is there not an Old Testament requirement to love my neighbour as myself (Lev 19:18). The really new ideal is that we are to love in the way that Jesus loves us, and that is totally, to the last drop of his blood, poured out in the sacrifice of Calvary. Another sense in which his love-commandment is new is how he defines who is my neighbour, whom I should love. His parable of the Good Samaritan shows that everyone is my neighbour, even those of different nationality or religion. So now, love for our neighbour is very demanding, and goes beyond all racism or prejudice.
The really hard question is whether such love is possible. While giving a hesitant yes to this as a possibility, it is clear that most of us, most of the time clearly fail to live this new commandment fully. We can only love in this way by cooperating very generously with the grace of God. But the power to do is based on the new image of humanity given us by Christ, and because we have his living presence with us, to help us love others in his way.
It is a very demanding ideal to love our neighbour as ourselves or even to love our neighbour in any way at all. In the face of Islamic extremism or any other form of terrorism, or in time of war, we are strongly tempted to dehumanise the enemy and regard them as no longer part of the human family, and so unworthy of any kind of love or respect. But Jesus’ commandment to love, and his own example of forgiving those who crucified him, constantly call us to reconsider things and seek for reconciliation rather than total victory.
It is only by living in spiritual contact with Jesus that we can love our neighbour deeply. It is by living close to him that we can love as Jesus taught. If not, we will be relying only on our human efforts alone, and we will love with some other type of love but not the unconditional love Jesus asked for when he said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”
The compassion that heals
An American journalist, after watching Mother Teresa caring for a man with gangrene, remarked to her: ‘I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.’ Mother Teresa replied: ‘Neither would I… but I do it for love of God.’ Selfishness keeps us shut in, builds barriers, even walls, between us and others. What frees us is caring caring for others, being friends, being sisters and brothers to them, being good neighbours. A doctor, who has shared some of the deepest moments in the lives of many patients, says that people facing death don’t think about the degrees they’ve earned, the positions they’ve held, or how much wealth they’ve amassed. What really matters at the end is whom you have loved and who has loved you.
Love asks the best from us, and brings out the best in us. Being loved gives us a surprising energy and courage. Love makes us fruitful, productive, strong and constant in doing good. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, famous for her work on the stages of dying, has written: ‘Love is the flame that warms our soul, energises our spirit and supplies passion to our lives. It’s our connection to God and to one another.’
Practicing love has the power to heal ourselves and others. To love is to heal, both those who receive and those who give it. To decide to love is to be fully open to life. It is choice and not just feeling. When we choose to be loving, caring, healing, helping, and forgiving persons, we grow towards what our life is meant to be. There’s really no other way. So Jesus insists, very strongly: ‘Love one another, as I have loved you.’