Yesterday’s Gospel was St. John telling us how Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)
Father D picked up on the fact that Jesus said this was a “new commandment” and said how new was it when throughout Scripture God has tried to get people to love one another? It was a good question.
Jesus said it was a new commandment because of how He wanted us to love. Having set His example in washing their feet and then feeding them with His Body and Blood (because God is not constrained by time – but that’s another issue) and Judas has left to do his dirty deed.
Jesus then says He is giving them a new commandment, that they love one another – not in the comfortable sense of love but as HE has loved them. In the Greek St. John uses the word “agapete” (from agape) for Greek has more than one word for love depending on what kind of love was being spoken about.
Agape love is the giving love that in Latin is charitas which in English we call charity – that is giving. Charity in it’s real meaning has a much deeper meaning than dropping a few unneeded coins in a box. Agape-charity is sacrifice. We give something we need (or think we need) for the sake of another.
This is the love that demands we forgive our enemies and love them and pray for those who persecute and damage us.
Jesus suffered hugely for love of us and poured out every last drop of blood for us. When He calls the disciples to do the same He means it. There is no way on earth we could obey that commandment. We are naturally selfish and self serving. Surely He’s asking way too much of us!
Thankfully the context for this otherwise impossible commandment is that He has just provided the Eucharist, the soulfood that gives us what we need to be able to obey that commandment.
In English we bandy the word “love” around in such a way that we often forget what it means in different circumstances. Jesus knows exactly what He is saying when He uses the word love and if we are going to love the way He wants us to, we had better be sure we get to grips with His meaning of the word, rather than what we would rather it meant.