Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s Gospel again comes from the Gospel of John. Like last week, today we hear words spoken by Jesus before his death and Resurrection. Jesus is teaching at the Last Supper.
John’s Gospel does not include an institution of the Eucharist narrative; instead, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Immediately after, Jesus predicts his betrayal by Judas. Today’s Gospel follows that prediction. It can be read as a continuing explanation of Jesus’ act of washing his disciples’ feet. It begins with the announcement that this is the moment when the Son of Man will be glorified. This theme continues throughout John’s Passion. Jesus will be glorified in his death on the cross and in his Resurrection, and the disciples will glorify Jesus in the love they show.
John’s Gospel does not present a sentimental view of love. This is a type of love that is shown in service and sacrifice. It is difficult to choose to love when faced with hatred and anger. Jesus tells the disciples that all will know that they are his disciples because of the love they show for one another. This description of the early Christian community will be repeated in the Acts of the Apostles: “See how they love one another.” Christian love is the hallmark of Christianity. We see it lived in the witness of the martyrs. We see it in the example of the lives of the saints. We see it in the holy women and men who live and love daily, making small and large sacrifices for others.
Gospel: John 13:31-33 34-35
In the Son of Man God has been glorified
When Judas had gone Jesus said: ‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him God will in turn glorify him in himself and will glorify him very soon. ‘My little children I shall not be with you much longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another everyone will know that you are my disciples.’
We are coming now toward the end of the book of Revelation, which means toward the end of the entire Biblical story. Writers will often draw the beginning and end of their work together; somehow the end is anticipated in the beginning, and the beginning is recapitulated at the end. There is something like that going on in the Bible. God has no intention of giving up on his creation or simply destroying it. The divorce that happened in the garden of Eden is overcome; and now the bride is ready for the Bridegroom.
By God’s goodness and compassion, the doors of His kingdom have been opened to all who have faith, Jew or Gentile.
That’s the good news Paul and Barnabas proclaim in today’s First Reading. With the coming of the Church—the new Jerusalem John sees in today’s Second Reading—God is “making all things new.”
In His Church, the “old order” of death is passing away and God for all time is making His dwelling with the human race, so that all peoples “will be His people and God Himself will always be with them.” In this the promises made through His prophets are accomplished (see Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 25:8; 35:10).
The Church is “the kingdom for all ages” that we sing of in today’s Psalm. That’s why we see the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, ordaining “presbyters” or priests (see 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5).
Anointed priests and bishops will be the Apostles’ successors, ensuring that the Church’s “dominion endures through all generations” (see Philippians 1:1, note that the New American Bible translates episcopois, the Greek word for bishops, as “overseers”).
Until the end of time, the Church will declare to the world God’s mighty deeds, blessing His holy name and giving Him thanks, singing of the glories of His kingdom. In His Church, we know ourselves as His “faithful ones,” as those Jesus calls “My little children” in today’s Gospel. We live by the new law, the “new commandment” that He gave in His final hours. The love He commands of us is no human love but a supernatural love. We love each other as Jesus loved us in suffering and dying for us. We love in imitation of His love. This kind of love is only made possible by the Spirit poured into our hearts at Baptism (see Romans 5:5), renewed in the sacrifice His priests offer in every Mass.
By our love we glorify the Father. And by our love all peoples will know that we are His people, that He is our God.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, as I begin this prayer I offer you my whole self: my thoughts, desires, decisions, actions, hopes, fears, weaknesses, failures and petty successes. I open my entire being to you, aware that you know everything already. I’m certain of your mercy and of the purifying power of your penetrating, loving gaze.
Petition: Jesus, let me fulfill your command of charity.
1. The Depths of Jesus’ Love: Jesus makes a startling comparison: He likens his love for his disciples with the immense love his Father has for him. Before even the world came to be, the Father and the Son were immersed in boundless, mutual love. The Holy Spirit is this bond of love. The intimacy of the union and self-giving of the Blessed Trinity surpasses any human comparison, and yet Our Lord tells his disciples he loves them in a like manner. Do I realize how deeply my Savior loves me? Does the truth of Christ’s personal love for me, proven from the height of the cross, fill me with awe and find an ever more generous response in my spiritual life?
2. Demands of Friendship: The circumstances and timing surrounding Jesus’ designation of his disciples as friends reiterates the authenticity of the title. Jesus is just a few hours away from being abandoned and betrayed by those he now calls friends. Still, Our Lord is so moved by love that he looks beyond his followers’ betrayal, to the victory he is about to win for them. Jesus also offers me his friendship. He invites me to “remain in his love.” I am not called to be a spectator, but to discover the joy found in accompanying him. To follow the “Crucified One” will always be demanding, but his friendship is a treasure which far surpasses the weight of the cross.
3. Badge of Love: The mutual love of the Father and the Son, which Jesus gratuitously extends to us as his friends, should bear fruit in charity. The first Christians took very seriously Christ’s command of charity. It was their distinctive mark. It set them apart from the peoples among whom they lived. It was the magnetic force that attracted so many to join their ranks. The command to love each other is the logical result of our personal worth as people loved by the Lord. If Jesus loves my brother or sister so much that he gave his life for him or her, can there be any excuse for me not to show respect and deference on their behalf? Charity is the badge of every true Christian. How can I better live Christ’s commandment of love, starting within my own family?
Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I pray that I will never cease to be astonished by the depths of your personal love for me. You call me your friend even though I have not always lived up to the demands of this calling. I want to be a better and truer friend of yours.
Resolution: I will show a simple act of kindness to a member of my family today.