As I Love You

We are winding down Eastertide, two weeks from now is Pentecost, the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of church, and as we come closer to Pentecost and the end of the Easter season, the Church brings us back to the Last Supper, the start of Jesus’ passion, with today’s Gospel[1] passage.

We are brought back to a solemn moment. Jesus is at table with his closet followers, his Twelve Apostles. He knows that this is the last time they will be gathered in this way.

Nothing is carelessly said during this solemn moment. These are the Lord’s final words to his followers before His passion. Jesus explains that He has loved us, and that He longs for us to remain in His love, to stay in His friendship, so that we may experience the indescribable joy that flows from true love. And then He lays down His summary of all his teaching and of his entire life: “love one another as I love you.”[2]

The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament were summarized by Jesus during His public life in two commandments of the New Testament: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. But now, at the climax of His earthly mission, Jesus combines those two into a final, summarized commandment: ‘love one another as I love you’[3]. In a very real way this is the Christian journey plan. The journey map towards heaven.

At the Last Supper, with the words we just heard, Jesus was preparing His followers against evil and all the forces of darkness. And the Church He is forming through His Apostles will take that same plan; Holy Mother Church is the living witness to ‘love one another as I love you’[4]. By her witnesses – the saints, by her devotion to Lord, by her constant guidance towards the Triune God. By her radiating the love of God she points us towards the eternal light and peace of Heaven. She bleeds when we bleed, she cries when we cry, she celebrates when we celebrate and most importantly; she brings Christ to us and us to Christ.

Her witness and proclamation to us is combined with her urging us to use it in our lives and take it to the ends of the earth and to every corner of human history and culture. The plan is so simple and straightforward, summed up in this single, final, definitive command: ‘love one another as I love you’[5].

Friends, we are the loved ones of Christ, and He is our most loved. Our experiences in love with those who have been in our lives help us understand what true love is. Those who have been in our lives and have witnessed to us this special love; those who nurtured us, whether it be our mother whom we celebrate today or other special and loved people, have shown us what is most important in our lives and help us to desire to be part of the Lord’s final command: ‘love one another as I love you’[6]. This is the life we are called to, that we are called to bring to the world.

Today’s gospel is the start of our Lord’s passion, the great work that destroyed death and restored our life, it is His most intense proclamation of ‘love one another as I love you’[7]. Christ’s whole life on earth was one great action of love after another.  Holy Mother Church’s witness (mentioned earlier) is through its members, the family of Jesus, us. We take what we have received and pass it forward to those lost and looking. But the question that comes to my mind is: how do I hope to get even remotely close to witnessing like Christ, like the saints, like you?

St Josemaria Escriva said to his followers, and to us: ‘Do everything for love. That way there are no little things. Everything is big.[8]

In everything we do, we should do it for Christ, we should do it for Love. Normal little moments made special by our faith in God will be witness to those around us, and they may be a big moment for those who are lost, unloved.

Every public thing we do will be a more believable and impactful witness to others by the strength we receive from the Holy Spirit through the quiet of our soul. We do for others, we love others, because we do it for the love we have for the Triune and loving God.

During an interview, when the cameras had stopped Saint Theresa of Calcutta responded to a comment from the interviewer when he said: ‘Your works speak so strongly of the love you have for these poorest of the poor’. She answered: ‘I don’t do it for them only, I do it because my Lord loves me and He expects nothing less from those He loves and who loves Him.’ This is important, our love for God energizes our love for each other.

But I am preaching to the choir, so to speak; as I mentioned two weeks ago, there is a loving community here at St. John the Baptist. You changed my ministry to you into being welcomed to your family. You are a great example to Christ’s lived witness ‘love one another as I love you’[9]. As I leave here, and move south, I want you to know that, after five years I have come to that command is this parish’s lived mission statement. But we can’t rest on our laurels, we can’t be satisfied with how things are. As good as they are we still need to come closer to the love that Jesus gave to us and better in passing it to those around us. I am taking your witness with me and will bring it to those I will encounter, may you continue to inspire others, and may you continue to grow your love for others as you all journey towards He who is Love.

This expectation might seem daunting, and beyond our strength. But the Lord looks at the heart not the actions. He doesn’t expect us to succeed all the time. He only expects us to try with love in our hearts. I would like to finish with words that I keep in my wallet. They are words that provide strength throughout my journey. May they do the same for you on this journey.

There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on[10][11]

Indeed, ‘the love of Christ urges us on!.’



[1] Jn 15:9-17
[2] Jn 15:12
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
[8] The Way #813, St Josemaria Escriva
[9] Jn 15:12
[10] 2 Cor 5:14
[11] Deus Caritas Est #35, Pope Benedict XVI

St. Teresa of Calcutta

Today, the world is given a new person to look up to; to admire; to emulate, or so the press is proclaiming.  Today, the media is feeding us a large dose of saccharine about this person St. Teresa of Calcutta. In every online article I read and TV news segment I watched I was informed about this sweet, energetic and sort of tough old lady who helped people no one wanted to help. And this is true, but it is not the fully written icon of this wonderful saint.

What was missing was the reason for her life – God. Sure God was referred to, how could he not be, after all, it is the Church who declares her a saint. But, in most presentations God was referred to quickly and the church even more quickly; of course they did mention Pope Francis frequently; after all, he is the darling of the mainstream media – he makes good copy – especially if they parse and cut his words to fit their agendas. No, these watercolor-type news stories kept far away from what drove St. Teresa – love of God and the cross.

St. Teresa of Calcutta has been proclaimed great by the media, not by the Church.  St. Teresa of Calcutta has been proclaimed the doer of astounding things by the media, not by the Church. What the Church proclaims, is that great things sprouted up from St. Teresa’s little acts of love. What the Church proclaims is that her ‘greatness’ is that her life was one of decrease as her love, Jesus Christ increased. What the Church proclaims is that her daily, constant, decision to love Jesus, and those He loves, was a constant cross that she resolutely carried. What Holy Mother Church proclaims is that by her self-surrender to the Lord, He was allowed to be fruitful through her.

Today, we celebrate the proclamation of another example of love which in this case is a verb not a noun. Today, we celebrate the proclamation of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s sainthood not by reminiscing and reveling in warm feelings, as if we are sitting together looking at family photos; but by following her daily choices and offering our own efforts to carry the cross, our cross, as she did so that our true love Jesus can be fruitful through us as well. Today, along with Saint Teresa of Calcutta we hold the Cross high.