May 1997

The Word of Life, taken from Scripture, is offered each month as a guide and inspiration for daily living.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12)

You may want to know exactly when Jesus said these words. It was just before the beginning of his passion. These words were part of his farewell to his disciples, his testament. It is obvious then how important they are!

If the words a father pronounces on his deathbed can never be forgotten, how should we feel about the words of a man who is God? They are to be taken very seriously. Let us try together to understand them in depth.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you”

Jesus was about to die and what he said reflected this. Because of his imminent departure one matter was foremost in his mind: how could he remain among his wn and take care of the growing Church?

You know, of course, that Jesus is present in the sacraments. In the Mass, for instance, he becomes truly present in the Eucharist.

But Jesus is also present wherever there are people who live mutual love, for he told us: “Wherever two or three are united in my name (and this is possible through mutual love) there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20).
Thus in a community of people whose life is deeply rooted in mutual love he can continue to be effectively present. And through the community, he can go on revealing himself to the world and make his influence felt.

Isn’t this splendid? Doesn’t this make you want to start right now to live this love with your fellow Christians? According to St. John, who recorded the words on which we are now meditating, mutual love is the foremost commandment of the Church whose vocation is, in fact, to be communion, to be unity.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you”

Right after pronouncing these words, Jesus said: “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn. 13:35).

If therefore you want to know the true mark of the authentic disciples of Christ, if you want to know their distinctive characteristic, you will find it in the mutual love they live. Christians are recognized by this sign and if it is missing, the world will no longer recognize Christians as disciples of Jesus.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you”

Mutual love brings about unity. And what is the result of unity? “May they all be one,” Jesus also said, “so that the world may believe” (Jn. 17:21). Unity, by revealing Christ’s presence, draws the world to follow him. When the world sees unity and mutual love, it believes in him.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you”

In this same farewell, Jesus called this commandment “his.” It is his and, therefore, it is particularly dear to his heart. You should not simply take it as a norm or a rule to follow, or simply as one of the commandments. Here Jesus wants to reveal a way of life. He wants to give you something upon which you can build your life. The first Christians placed this commandment at the basis of their lives. As Peter said: “Above all, let your love for one another be constant” (1 Pt. 4:8).

Before going to work, before going to school, before going to Mass, before starting any activity, make sure that there is mutual love between you and whoever lives with you. If there is, then everything you do is worthwhile. Without this foundation nothing is pleasing to God.

Jesus also said that this commandment was “new.” “I give you a new commandment.” What did he mean? That this commandment was previously unknown?

No. “New” indicated that it belonged to the “new era.”

What kind of love, then, was he referring to?

Jesus died for us. Therefore he loved us in the greatest possible way. But with what kind of love did he love us? Certainly not with a love like ours. His love was, and is, divine. In fact, he said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” (Jn. 15:9). He loved us with the same love with which he and the Father love each other.

It is with this same love that we must love one another in order to carry out the “new” commandment. However, as human beings, you and I do not possess this kind of love. But happily, as Christians, we have received it. The Holy Spirit has instilled it in our hearts, and in the hearts of all believers.

There is, therefore, an affinity between the Father, the Son and us Christians, because of this one,divine love which we possess. It is this love which introduces us into the life of the Trinity. It is thislove of God which makes us his children.

This love is a bond uniting heaven and earth in a dynamic way. By means of this love the Christian community shares in God’s life, and God dwells on earth wherever believers love one another.

Don’t you feel that all this possesses a divine beauty and that Christian life is extraordinarily attractive?

Chiara Lubich