Let's begin with a little test today. What company is marked by the Golden Arches? What company is known by a piece of red fruit with a bite taken out? What company is known by a talking green gecko? Congratulations, you really know your advertising. So what is the Christian Church known for? In our Gospel today, John gives us the answer: We are known by our love for one another. Today in the Last Discourse, Jesus tells His disciples “I give you a New Commandment. Love one another as I have loved you.” In this statement Jesus reminds us that love is the SOUL of our Christian life. Beyond the Liturgy by itself or the worldwide organized religion, LOVE is at the core of our Christian life. Nothing is more important. In the words of those four British theologians, John, Paul, George and Ringo.....”All you need is love”. But what does “love” look like in concrete terms? It it goes a bit further than the lyrics of the Beatles would suggest. I want to give you an illustration. Listen carefully because this requires you to use your imagination. I want you to imagine that Jesus walks through the back door of the church right now. He comes in carrying a basin and a towel. You know without a doubt that this is Jesus. He comes right up to you and looks you in the eyes. He says to you “May I wash your feet?” How would you feel? Excited? Nervous? Unworthy? But this is the real Risen Christ asking you to remove your shoes so that He can show His love for you by washing your feet. So you say “Yes, Lord” and He does. Then He asks you to do the same for Him. Would you do it? Of course you would. Now let's put the imagination aside. We know that Jesus is not here in physical form today. He cannot get down on His knees and wash our feet. BUT...believe me.....Jesus comes to us, cleanses us, restores us and forgives us. Then, He asks us to do the same. Well, wait a second. We cannot physically reach out to touch Jesus Christ, right? But He tells us (pause here) “Inasmuch as you have done this to the least of my brothers, you have done unto me.” In other words, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Now I want to point out that Jesus did not say this as a suggestion. It was not an option.....take or leave it. No, this was an order, a command. He did not say “Love one another when it feels right. He did not say “Love one another when you are both young and healthy and good looking”. He did not say you can pick and choose the people you should love. No, His command was to love everyone even when they are hard to love. Love them even if they have done something to make you mad. We are to love one another despite the betrayals, hurt words, and strained relationships. We are to love one another in spite of the fact that the other person is poorer, less educated, less attractive than we are. In short, we are love as Jesus loves us....completely, unconditionally, wholly.
You might say, “Well, Father, that is a great idea but sometimes it is very hard to do.” Well, I agree. There are times that it is very difficult to love. We can see it even in our own families. Every family goes through this at some point and to some degree. Perhaps a wife is finding it difficult to love her husband because he is working long hours and seems to be ignoring her. Perhaps the husband is finding it difficult to love the wife because she is preoccupied with the children and all that entails. We all have to admit that at times we fall short in being loving toward one another. It might be a single outburst brought on by frustration with one another. Other times we might fall into a pattern of disrespect or failure to love.
I heard a little joke the other day: After preaching on the New Commandment of Jesus, a priest told married couples in the congregation to pick up a little wooden cross on their way out of church after Mass and place it in the room of the home where they tend to argue most. One woman walked up to him at the door and said “Father, I am willing to try it, but I'm going to need six more crosses. One for every room in the house!” There is an old saying that love begins at home. It doesn't matter if you need one cross to remind you or 50. With the grace of God you can find the power to make the decision to love as Jesus did both at home and out in the world.