Love one another

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48; Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

In last week’s Gospel, Jesus described the relationship between himself, his Father and his disciples. Jesus is the true vine, the Father is the vinedresser, and the disciples are the branches. Each branch is from the true vine and subject to the vinedresser’s discipline. What exactly is the discipline that the vinedresser wants his disciples to follow?

The answer to that question lies in the readings from last week as well as this week. Last week, in 1 John 3:18-24, we read that God’s commandment is this: “Love one another . . .” This Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples, “Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Love. In these last two weeks, the word has been repeated several times. We hear the term used all the time. I “love” dark chocolate. I “love” that dress. I “love” you. Advertisements bombard us with the term. Certainly, we can be very confused by what exactly the term “love” means.

Pope Benedict XVI expressed this confusion in his encyclical letter “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”): “Today, the term ‘love’ has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings.” (#2)

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “God, ‘he who is,’ revealed himself to Israel as the one ‘abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’ These two terms express summarily the riches of the divine nature. In all his works God displays not only his kindness, goodness, grace and steadfast love, but also his trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness, and truth.” (#214)

In the first letter of John, the author describes God as “God is love,” expressing the self-giving love of God — creating us in his image and likeness, showering his infinite mercy and grace upon us, and desiring us to be happy even to the point of willingly sacrificing everything for us. God demonstrated his love for us by sending his only Son, Jesus, “into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation of our sins.” (1 John 7:10)

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus says, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” He goes on to say, “Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus loved his followers as the Father had loved him. Now the disciples, those he chose, having experienced this deep love, are commanded to go forth and love others according to his example, even to the point of laying down their lives for him.

Like the first disciples, we do not choose God, he chooses us. He loves us because “God is love.” We are called to share God’s love with everyone we meet. As branches on the vine, sheep following the shepherd, we are called to follow in Christ’s footsteps, loving all people as he loves us, even if we have to lay down our lives for them.

How do you love others, expressing to them the same love God has for you? How would your life change if you were to lay down your life for your friends? What can you do right now to contribute to the world in order to follow God’s command to ” love one another?”

A member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington, Sharon Priester is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics and serves the Bloomington and Lincoln vicariates of the Diocese of Peoria.

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