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May 25, 2003

Love One Another as I Have Loved You

(John 15: 9-17)

There's a story I heard recently about an eight-year old boy with a younger sister who was dying of leukemia. She needed a blood transfusion in order to live, so the parents asked the boy if they could test his blood. He said okay, and they did and the blood matched, so they asked him if he would donate his blood to his sister and the boy said he would have to think about it overnight, and so they said okay.

The next morning, the boy told his parents that he was willing to donate his blood, so they took him to the hospital where he was put on bed next to his sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs, and the nurse took a pint of blood from the boy, and put it in the girl's IV. The boy lay there in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, who was going to be fine and the doctor came in to see how they were doing and the boy opened his eyes and asked him, "How soon now until I die?"

Jesus tells us today that we are supposed to love just like that, even to the point of giving our lives in love for others. In this reading from John's Gospel, during the Last Supper, the night before he gives his life for us, Jesus tells us to "Remain in me." Last week I spoke about remaining in Jesus by being people of prayer, and today I want to speak about remaining in Jesus by being people of love.

"As the Father loves me," Jesus says, "so I love you. Remain in my love. This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you. Lay down your life in love for your friends." I want to offer three little points about love: becoming people of interpersonal love, people of communal love, and people of universal love.

First, Jesus wants us to love the concrete people around us, our spouses, children, parents, neighbors, relatives, co-workers and everyone in town, to be patient and kind and nonviolent with the people in our day to day lives, and love them and keep on loving them, no matter what, no matter how hard. To love everyone we meet in our lives!

Second, Jesus wants us to be a community of love, not just individual persons of interpersonal love but a people of communal love, a community, a parish, a town of great love. What would take for us to become a community of love as God wants? I think it means that as a community we have to stop any hostility, gossip, resentment, and bitterness we may have toward anyone else in town or some relative who hurt us twenty years ago. We have to let it all go and give it all to God and soften our hearts and become people of perfect love. St. Ignatius Loyola wrote that "love is shown in deeds, not in words," so our love needs to be active. We can get more involved in the church and serve one another and try to help one another and be a community of love.

Finally, Jesus wants us to be people of universal love, to widen our hearts and love everyone in the whole world the way he did, with a universal, all-inclusive, unconditional, nonviolent, active, selfless perfect love. We have to have an attitude of love toward everyone on the planet, including toward those who are different, people of different religions, races, nations, or whatever. If we are people who love like Jesus, then we love everyone everywhere.

That's why over the past few months and years, I've been saying we love even the people and children of Iraq, regardless of what our government says. But many people have said to me, "No, there are some people who are not lovable. They cannot be loved, you can't love them, so we don't have to love them and we can go ahead and kill them." But that's not the attitude of Jesus. That's not what the text says. If Jesus took that attitude, we'd all be in a lot of trouble. If Jesus only loved those who were loveable, we'd be in big trouble. There is no limit to the love of Jesus; likewise, there should be no limit to our love.

We're his followers and he commands us to love everyone, regardless of what the nation or the world says. We love everyone, including the unlovable, our enemies, those who are different or those we don't like. Not only are we never to hurt or kill another or support war, Jesus says, we are to give our lives in love for others.

Part of you is thinking, "That's impossible." Part of us says, "No thanks, Jesus, we don't want to love that much. We don't want to love our families and neighbors and co-workers that much. We don't want to become a community of love. We certainly don't want to love everyone in the world. We love some people but all the people."

But Jesus says, "I love you so much I have given my life for you, and now I want you to love each other the same way, to become people of great love, a community of love, to really be my disciples and bear good fruit for God and remain in me."

St. John of the Cross said, "In the evening of life, we will be judged by love." When we come before God, God will not ask us how much money we made, or how successful we were, or how powerful and important we were, but how loving we were. This is the goal of the spiritual life, the meaning of life, the only thing that matters, so I invite you to reflect this week on how we can become more loving, like Jesus, people of great, patient, unconditional, nonviolent, compassionate, all-inclusive, non-retaliatory, selfless, sacrificial, universal, perfect love toward everyone.

The good news today is that if we dare love as Jesus loved, we will have complete joy and become God's best friends.

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