Father Michael's   Reflection

May 15, 2022

Our Gospel lesson this week is all about Love. 


As Jesus prepares to enter into the final days of his Passion, he declares to his disciples, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.


If these verses from the Gospel according to John sound familiar, it is probably because they were also read on Maundy Thursday,  where they formed part of the longer story of Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. You will remember from that service that we heard an extended reading from this chapter that included an account of Jesus kneeling down to wash the feet of his disciples – an act of true humility and true love. Through this symbolic act, Jesus’ delivered a powerful message to his disciples that they should emulate him by humbling themselves in true love and devotion to each other. 


But Jesus went further. Just so there could be no misunderstanding of his intentions, he made his message explicit by issuing a new commandment that they should love one another just as he loved them.  The takeaway for his disciples both then and now is clear: we are all called to share his love with each other and become witnesses of this love to the whole world. This reminds me of the Christian campfire song whose refrain declares “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”


This spirit of Christian love informs our understanding of what we as individuals are called to be and do. On a larger scale, this is also the church’s mission: to witness Christ’s love to the world, beginning with how we behave in our own community. But when the world looks at us, what do they see? We hope and pray that they see a community that despite its differences can be united in its love for God and for each other - a diverse community of people from various walks of life, with different backgrounds and different stories, with a variety of sometimes conflicting social and political perspectives, who, nevertheless, all experience life together in Christ.  


Unfortunately, however, to many people modern Christianity fails to resemble this vision. It can seem exclusive, self-concerned, intolerant, hypocritical, lacking in hospitality, even hate-filled. These are all qualities that stand in stark contrast to Jesus’ teaching.  It is up to us to change the impression that much of the world today seems to have of what Christians are like and what they believe; because the message that should be broadcast is that to believe in Christ is to believe in love. 


We must return to an understanding that on a fundamental level we are a community founded on love, this is the spirit of the early church; and once we recapture that spirit, then I believe that the wider world will associate us with the gifts of love; and they will know that we are Christians by our forgiveness, by our tolerance, by our hope, by our hospitality, by our compassion – all things that stem from love. Indeed, the love that we show to each other inspires us to reach out to the whole world, loving our neighbors as Christ loves us. And then it will ring true when people sing “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”