May 17, 2022 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
May 17, 2022 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
Today, the word “motivational speaker” has become common. Different people claim to speak on different issues such as health, spirituality, relationship, self-care, emotions, etc. YouTube is replete with names of individuals once you key in the word “motivational speaker” on a Google search. But none mentions Jesus. How about that? I believe strongly that the greatest motivational speaker to have existed is Jesus. His words are so powerful and inspirational that they keep influencing every generation. But Google is not totally wrong because Jesus is not just a motivational speaker like any other, so no surprises that you won’t find Him on Google search. Jesus is God, the Word made flesh through whom we live and have our being.
In today’s gospel, we hear one of the great speeches at his final discourse. This is what makes John’s gospel particularly unique, its rich theology resides in the depth of the discourse on the incarnate love of God made visible in Christ. Two things are happening in this short gospel: First, Jesus announces his departure. Second, he issues the code of conduct, a new commandment to his disciples -“Love one another as I have loved you.”
To the first point, John highlights that Judas had left them at the time of Jesus’ speech. That presents the image of the death by which Jesus would fulfill his mission. Jesus talks about his glory in an intense manner here. He reminds the disciples that his death is the source of his glory. The death is equally the sign of his love for humanity. It is in utter obedience to the Father that he gives his life up for his friends. Hence, in Christ is the Father glorified and the Father is in turn glorifying his Son through the sacrifice which the Son makes in fulfilment of the Father’s will. The death of Jesus, therefore, connects Him to the Father, and also becomes the sign of His love for his people.
In the second part of that discourse, Jesus links his glory with his mission of love. Those three verses of John’s gospel use the word “glory” five times and the word “love” four times. In each of those instances, the power of love is found in the mission of Christ which is the reason for his glory from the Father. Jesus is glorified in death and through this sacrifice he has brought us into the love of the Father. Here we recall the words of Venerable Fulton Sheen, “every other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die. Christ is not merely a moral teacher; He is a Savior. From the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, our Lord always had his sights set on Mount Calvary and our Redemption. He is the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son… (Jn. 3:16)” Christ reminds his disciples that he is not just dying, rather that he is initiating them into his love.
“As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” is such a powerful expression. We need to ask ourselves the question, how can we recapture the power of the command to love as instructed by Jesus? How can we place ourselves at the Last Supper table to carry out this new commandment of love? The world today has become so split and divided. The church is almost split and divided as well. World Leaders do not seem to be spreading the message of love. In the church, we have also been found wanting in being agents of love. What exactly are we missing? Like Judas, there are evidences of betrayal in many relationships. People prefer to walk away once they satisfy themselves. There is less emphasis on the good of the other. How then can we live out the new commandment? Jesus says clearly, “As I have loved you.” We cannot love adequately if we don’t love like Jesus.
My dear friends, what makes Jesus’ love unique is sacrifice and we can only recapture the power of the commandment of love if we are willing to make sacrifice. Whether in the church, family, politics, or at work, there is need to be other-centered. Jesus showed compassion to the needy, the sick, the oppressed, the widows, and the orphans. How many leaders think about the welfare of the poor in making policies? How many of us are willing to step up in the church to serve without first thinking about convenience? There is a pervasive mindset that seeks self interest in this generation.
Last week I came to one of the banks in the local area for a transaction at the ATM. While at the ATM I noticed a lady pull up at the parking lot and took a handicap parking spot. She had another lady at the back who is a little older than the driver. The lady driver came out and opened the door for this lady at the back, then helped her out. She brought this lady to the first step of the bank door and then went back to park the car well. At that point I noticed that the lady had a bad vision. She is practically blind. She started groping for the bank door to enter and started yelling, asking for help. The security man was literally by the side of this door. Perhaps this security guy had been instructed to act professionally and to just mind his business. But here is this woman shouting for help to locate the door to the bank before her sister would return. I had to move from the ATM to help her. I had questions about such a disconnect and insensitivity from the security man. We are not robots, and Jesus never spoke to robots. We are human beings made in the image of God who is love. Why would we not just do little things to show love for the other person irrespective of where we find such opportunity?
“As I have loved you,” is a command from Jesus. I challenge you for the rest of the week to find such opportunities to show love. Let these words echo in your head and in your heart throughout the week, “As I have loved you.” While you shop at the grocery stores. While you speak to someone on the phone. While you attend to someone at the front desk or treat a customer who is confused. While you receive your spouse who’s coming back after a difficult day at work. While you drop your child off at school. While you are on the road. While you serve the sick or the elderly in the hospital, at the rehab or at the Assisted Living. As you encounter someone, just say to yourself, “I have to love as Jesus has loved and as he has commanded.” The new commandment of love can only make sense if we practice it in our daily lives. It is not about having motivational speakers, rather about having motivational doers in our world today. We all must make sacrifice to make love real and impactful.
Readings: 1st- Acts 14:21-27; 2nd- Rev. 21:1-5; Gospel- Jn. 13:31-33, 34-35