Love one another, as I have loved you (Jn 15:12)
From the Golden Rule to a Programme of Life
Many Diocesan Catechisms, after listing the Ten Commandments would immediately add, “And these can be summarized in two Commandments:
· ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’ (from Deuteronomy 6:5), and
· ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself’” (from Leviticus 19:18).
The official Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) does not add this appendage, but it groups the Ten Commandments in two sections using the two quotations (from Deuteronomy and Leviticus) referring to the Love of God and the Love of Neighbor as titles for the two groups. For the purposes of teaching it is useful to group the Ten Commandments in the two tablets of Moses: the first tablet containing the three commandments about the Love of God, and the second tablet bearing the seven commandments concerning the Love of neighbor.
However, I would like to see our catechisms adding a third part: about Jesus’ commandment of love. That would be a sentence from the gospel reading of today. “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘this is my commandment: Love one another, as I have loved you (Jn 15:12)’.”
It is no more, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” but “Love one another as I love you.” “As I love myself” – a criterion from the Hebrew Scriptures – could be a necessary standard to build a global humanistic ethics. “Love others yourself,” or “Do to no one what you would not want done to you.” This is fundamental to the teachings of all world religions and is found in the folklore of many cultures across the globe. This is called, “The Golden Rule.” In fact, the Parliament of World Religions (1993) has signed a “Declaration toward a Global Ethic” based on the Golden Rule. But this is not sufficient to build Christian love. Jesus, as typical of him, is inviting us to something more: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). This is not just a rule, but a programme of life.
The Programme of Life: As I have loved you…
This new commandment is found only the Gospel of John. John repeats it twice in the farewell discourse of Jesus (which lasts from John 13:31 to 17:26). After having washed the feet of his apostles including those of Judas, and having shared his bread with Judas – his would-be traitor, Jesus says for the first time, “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you” (Jn 13: 34). In chapter 14 of John, Jesus goes on to talk about his relationship with the Father, into which we are also invited to abide. Then, he says (from the gospel text of today), “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” (Jn 15:9), and then, “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). More frightening thing is yet to follow. He talks about an intimate relationship with him, a friendship (Jn 15:15). He talks about giving one’s life for friends (Jn 15:13). What more? Jesus lays down his own life for his ‘friends’. “After Jesus had taken the wine he said, ‘It is fulfilled’; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Now, this is more profound than the Golden Rule. It is even more than just being a good person.
It may be easier to follow the Golden Rule. I might want to succeed in life, so I push others also to succeed in life, even if that means being harsh with them. I might have come up in my life the hard way, so I push others to work hard as well. I may be very self-disciplined, and so I demand discipline from others. All for their good! All with good intention! And I call this, ‘love’.
On the other hand, the new commandment calls for something deeper. It is not clear. It does not seem easy. It cannot be simplified in some set of rules. But that should not tempt me to water down the invitation of Jesus.
John again writes in his epistle, as we heard in the second reading of today: “Let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God” (1Jn 4:7).
So what could I be doing? There is nothing to be done. So it seems to me. It is in the realm of being. It is “not our love for God”, but just contemplating “God love’s for us…” (1Jn 4:10). So, I desire to be open to the love of God made visible in Jesus. I exercise my freewill to be available to the God-in-Jesus who wants to commune with me. I just want to be there. If this is the sole purpose of my prayer, my liturgy, and my Christian life, if not today, one day, I will learn to love. This is indeed a programme of life. The programme of Christian life!
I would like to give you an example in the life of St. Dominic Savio (novena going on) of how he put into this golden rule into practice. He was able to do this for he had great love for God and wanted others to experience this love of God in their lives and make them Jesus’ friends.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13.34,35)
The Traits of a Soldier who loved God.
“Preventing evil” is not always an easy thing. It takes courage and love. “Doing something positively good” is even more difficult. It takes courage and love; it also takes prudence, kindness and intelligence. Dominic tried it and it gradually learned it.
The way to and from Prof. Bonzanino’s school to the Oratory and back was lined with a continuous parade of carriages and wagons and one often heard the screams, curses and even the blasphemies of the carters.
Dominic’s companion saw him suddenly take off his cap and whisper a few words. He asked:
- What did you say?
- Did you hear that?
Replied Dominic – That cart driver has just blasphemed. If I could get closer, I would tell him to stop, but I’m afraid it could get worse. So I said: Praised be Jesus Christ, to repair the offense against the Lord.
Another time, on entering via Barbaroux, Dominic heard a cart driver swearing profusely. At the third blasphemy he could bear it no longer and so he approached the man. He tried to smile and asked:
- Excuse me, can you show me the way to the Oratory of Don Bosco?
Before that smiling face, the big man broke off his string of curses and replied:
- I don’t really know, my boy, I’m sorry.
- So, could do me another favour?
- Happily, what’s that?
- I would be very pleased, if, when you’re angry you don’t use such nasty curses.
The huge man was stunned; then he muttered:
- You are right. I’m an old blasphemer and that’s not good.
One morning the road was slushy because it had rained. Dominic was on his way to school with his companion when, over the din, he heard the sound of the Viaticum bell.
In those days, when the Eucharist was brought to some sick person as a comfort on his way to eternity, it was carried solemnly. A priest dressed in white walked under a small canopy, with the Host wrapped in an embroidered cloth. He would be accompanied by two altar boys carrying lighted candles and a bell. At that sound, Dominic along with the people present knelt down. But next to him was a soldier who remained rigid and impaled. Maybe he was afraid of getting his uniform dirty. Dominic then took out a white handkerchief from his pocket and spread it on the ground and with a smile invited the gentleman to kneel. The confused soldier knelt down too.
These incidents happened “outside” the Oratory. Some might ask but ‘inside the Oratory, among his companions did Dominic “do good”?’
Don Bosco answered this question himself as he wrote the “Life” of Dominic immediately after his death. He declared: “Where there is a gathering of so many youngsters there are usually some who are less educated, more ignorant, rude or afflicted with some illness that makes their companions shun them. Though it may not seem obvious, they do suffer being shunned and left alone. They are the most in need of friends, not the others. Well, these were Dominic Savio’s dearest friends. He approached them, kept them happy and encouraged them to join in the games…. If someone had matter he needed to confide to someone, Dominic was the one… If there was someone sick in the infirmary and a nurse was requested, Dominic was always the most popular one.”
Time for Reflection
“To love others” is the second greatest commandment that Jesus gave us and it comes after the first: “Love God with all your strength above all else.” This love is rarely exercised in big things. It is manifested several times and in ordinary ways: clearing the table, making the beds, helping mummy clear out the garbage before going to pray, keeping company with someone who is sick, spending time chatting with a senior citizen, “making his day,” helping a classmate or a younger brother figure out a problem that he has not understood. It sounds easy, however many of us let selfishness take over and others don’t care. It almost seems that we “don’t see them.” Do a little reflection: how many times yesterday have I thought of someone else? What do I want to concretely do, to get out of selfishness?
Sunday of GOD’s LOVE
Jesus wants us to experience the Father’s love through Him.
To have the Father’s love, Jesus gives us a program to follow
- To keep close (as we heard in last Sunday’s gospel of the Vine and its branches), to be attached; and
- In today’s gospel: to keep the commandments.
The commandments are to be kept out of LOVE, just as Jesus has kept His Father’s. The commandment is nothing but to LOVE.
What is this LOVE that the Lord is asking us to have and experience?
- Love as a friend. Love that sees only the good of the other without counting the cost or being selfish in life. Love even to the point of being put to death.
- A friend is one who knows everything and wants to share all. There are no secrets and this love is open, seeing the good of the other person.
- When Jesus says ‘I love you’, we become a friend of Him and not a slave. A slave does things out of fear, obligation and with no feelings. God does not treat us like servants, the only reason being is because He is Love and in love there are no servants only friends.
Thus once we remain in the Love of Jesus, since we have experienced Him as our good shepherd, our true Vine; we will once again hear the greatest words of assurance: ..Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”
We will be able to ask not for ourselves but more for others, since we have kept the commandment of Jesus: to love one another.
Love one another as I have loved you
A young woman walked into a fabric shop and asked the proprietor if he had any kind of noisy, rustling material in white. The proprietor searched the inventory and finally found two bolts of fabric that fit the description. As she was cutting the fabric to the customer’s specification, the proprietor’s curiosity got the best of her and she asked why the woman wanted such an unusual and noisy cloth. The young woman replied, “You see, I’m making a wedding gown, and my fiance is blind. When I walk down the aisle, I want him to know when I’ve arrived at the altar, so he won’t be embarrassed.”
Dominic Savio’s way to holiness was to follow the spirituality taught him by St. John Bosco and his Salesians, namely a life lived simply by doing the every day duties of life in an extra-ordinary way. It is a youth spirituality that can be lived by people of all ages.
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.