Love one another as I have loved you

“Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.” (Jn 15:9)

Jesus asks us to love one another in the same way that Jesus loves us. All the readings today are about love; the language is repeated as if to bring us back to what matters: in the end, our lives are about Love.

We can also look to Jesus as a model for love. Here are some things I notice about how Jesus loves:

1. All love is grounded in being loved by God. Jesus says that his own love is grounded in being loved by the Father. Our capacity to love others is also grounded in our knowing that we are loved unconditionally. If we remain in the love of Jesus, that love flows out from us toward others, a love working in and through us.

2. “Love is patient and kind,” as St Paul says. Love responds to difficulties and stumbling blocks with patience and kindness. Consider Jesus with the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, or the thieves on the cross. His love is responsive and embracing, not recriminatory.

3. Love is communicative and speaks the truth. Jesus tells Peter “get behind me, Satan” when Peter refuses to acknowledge that Jesus will suffer. Peter resists entering into Jesus’s suffering and so refuses an aspect of friendship with Jesus. So Jesus openly tells Peter that he is acting in an adversarial way. Love doesn’t mean avoiding all conflict but communicates.

4. Love seeks out those in the margins of society. Jesus constantly goes to those who are marginalized and even despised in his society and works to heal them and to restore them to community: tax collectors, adulterers, Samaritans, roadside beggars, a Roman soldier identified with the oppressor, lepers.

5. Love is always reconciling. Jesus refuses reconciliation with no one, and we are to do the same with one another.

6. Love is willing to sacrifice for the sake of the good of another. Today is Mother’s Day and for me there is no better model of sacrificial love than that of a mother (my mom is a very loving mom). I recall holding my firstborn when she was a newborn infant and realizing I truly loved someone else more than myself. There was no question in my mind that I’d sacrifice even my own life in order to protect the life of that child–and nearly every mom would say the same.

7. Love can be shown in the smallest actions. I love St Therese of Lisieux, who demonstrated great love even while living isolated in a convent. While she could not live an active life in her society or live out the life of a missionary (though she supported missionary priests in prayer and with letters), she sought to love in every action of her day. She wrote, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

8. Love passes on gifts received to others. We receive many gifts in our lives: perhaps it’s a good education or a particular skill someone taught us; being received and cared for in a time of crisis; or material goods. Love shares what we have by passing on what has been received to others in the wider community. Like trees that produce seeds to grow new seedlings, when we pass on the gifts that we receive, our love becomes generative.

Of course, we often fail to love well. In the reading from Acts, Peter makes Cornelius get up and says, I’m only human, as you are. Often we stumble and fall in our efforts to love, but then we try again, and help each other to get back onto our feet once more.