Chapter Talk – Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 15, 2022, cycle-C
We meet the Risen One in the encounter of love, an encounter that includes forgiveness, receiving a deeper, fuller truth, and a way of being that is broader than the one we are living now. The encounter is about meeting the One who ‘makes all things new’, new in seeing, new in terms of a fresh perspective on how God meets us and enters our lives, new in terms of how we see ourselves and our sister and brother.
It is important to note that the gospel for this Sunday from St. John comes after the washing of the feet, and Jesus is giving instruction on how to live, and as we live his teaching, he says he will be present. Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar comments: “He gives them instruction about how to live so that, invisible, yet alive and effective, he might remain present among them” (Light of the Word, p.301). Christ continues to live amongst us, but how? Through each one of us, through each act, no matter how small of love, mercy, compassion, and yes, forgiveness. Von Balthasar adds this: “His rule is utterly short and unambiguous: ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’” (p.301-302). We heard about the flow of love from Fr. Simeon in his conference on the Eucharist. That is, God’s love for us and our love of God.
Jesus says in this gospel passage that he is giving his disciples a “new commandment”. What makes this commandment ‘new’? We have the commandment of love in the Hebrew Bible, so what is new? Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we are given a model, a paradigm of this new commandment of love. It involves the gift of ‘self’, given freely, no matter the cost. We hear in Chapter 13 of John’s gospel that “Jesus loved them to the end”. He ‘loved his disciples to the end’ and as his followers this is to be the extent of our love, loving to the end…The pattern of loving that we are to live is completely embodied in Jesus. With so much violence and hatred happening in society today, Jesus’ call to love even our enemies comes more to the forefront of our lives. And certainly, this is also a ‘new’ dimension of Christian love. Jesus’ life, his death and resurrection “established the model for love of neighbor” (p.302). It is ‘new’ because this commandment to love is actualized, fulfilled in Christ, in the One who is fully human and fully Divine.
‘By this you will know’…by this you will know that you are my disciples…And by what? To what extent do I love…to the end? Or to only these particular people? Furthermore, evil is transformed by love. It is not transformed by hate. It is the power of God’s love that transforms evil. However, God’s love is incarnated through human lives. We are to be the vessels of Divine love. In the encounter with Christ, we meet Love, forgiving love, transforming love. This we are called to live to the ‘end’. Von Balthasar further comments: “By this and only by this. No other characteristic of the Church can convince the world of the rightness and necessity of Christ’s person and teaching. Radiant love lived by Christians is the proof of all teaching, dogmas, and moral precepts of the Church of Christ” (p.302).
Finally, we are receiving this ‘new’ commandment during the Easter season. What makes it different to receive this gospel during this season? It means that there is suffering, there is the cross, but the cross if carried leads to live, risen life, life that embodies love to the fullest.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess