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 in 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 into some set of rules. But that should not tempt me to water down the invitation of Jesus either.
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 in 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!
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.