5th Sunday of Easter C

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”  When I hear these words of Jesus, I have three feelings simultaneously.  At one level, on the surface and without too much examination, I feel gratified.  Of course, we should love one another as Christ has loved us.  How else would we want to approach the other, but with Christ like love?  And I am well aware that we might be the only Gospel someone ever reads and the only witness to the Good News one person might ever meet.  And what could be more attractive in us and for the other but Christ-like love?

But there is also the accompanying feeling, something in the midrange of my mind and soul.  It begins pretty selfishly.  Love as Christ did?  How did that work out for him?  Jesus’ death on the cross seems to be affirmed by those who have heroically tried to share Christ like love.  Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King seem to be testimony that ultimate love demands the ultimate sacrifice.  Do we have the courage for all of that?  Why is ultimate peace met with ultimate violence?

Yet, we still want to follow the command of Christ, so we carefully choose a few people to really love.  They are not many.  They are our closest family and friends.  We may not love them perfectly, but we have no doubts we would lay down our lives for them.  So we put a fence around them, the ones whom we would love as Christ loved us in order to protect them. But that makes everyone not within our fence suspicious, a potential enemy and a threat to those we are bound to love ultimately.

It is one of the compromises to loving as Christ loved that we feel we must make.  After all, we are not yet in the glorious world described in the second reading where “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.”  We are still very much in the midst of a world of competition, danger and fear.  Instinctively, we know that perfect love leaves us vulnerable.  We are not ready to be treated as doormats or discarded as unrealistic.  We are holding our place in this world as we await the next.

But there is a third level. One that hits me in the gut – at the deepest recesses of my soul.  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” It is true and there can be no other way.  As a Christian there is so much hope and promise in the idea that I cannot afford to hold it loosely.   First we must hear the confidence that Christ has in us.  He really believes we have the capability to love others as He has loved us.  Jesus sees that in us.  It feels like those times when someone close recognizes a special ability in you and believed that you could accomplish more than you could imagine. Christ sees a capability in us to love that most of us dare not imagine.  He would not have commanded us if we could not do it.

For indeed, Revelations tells us, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.”  We are more than meets the eye.  We are an incarnated people, we are Christed!  And within us is the same Holy Spirit that moved Jesus to love, befriend and bless.  Yes, we are still living in a world plagued by sin. But a Christian cannot be without hope for that would mean we were without Christ.  We must snatch the new heaven and the new earth to come and bring it into this world. We act redeemed because we have been.  So we must wipe every tear away, we must fight now against injustice, the forsaking of human dignity and be willing to console the mourning and the suffering.  Our reach will not be as great as the Lord’s, but we can make his presence real in our corner of the world.  We may not feed everyone, but we can feed one more.  We might not teach everyone, but we can make an education a priority for all.  We cannot allow our privilege to distract us from the fact that dozens will die for the faith we have proclaimed in this church today.  We cannot remove all pain, but we can right now help others carry their cross.

Let us not surrender the dream of Revelations so quickly to the pragmatism of the world.  Let our love be bold and wide and our compassion unending.  Then as disciples of the one who has blessed and taught us what love truly is, we may dare to echo his cry, “Behold, I make all things new.”