Readings: Acts 14:21-17; Revelation 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Believe it or not, I actually consult commentaries when I preach. However when, as in today’s Gospel, I read a phrase like “As I have loved you, so should you love one another,” a commentary ceases to help. I might gain insight from reading, I might learn my way around a computer from reading, I can certainly garner information from reading or develop my thinking–but love? No, love is not a thought. No book can show me, step by step, how to love! Those of you who cook know that no cook book makes anyone a good cook. I have to roll up my sleeves, get to work and make some important mistakes. Bit by bit my cooking improves.
Of course, reading can answer some questions in today’s Gospel. Where does Jesus say this in John’s Gospel? Right after Judas has left the Last Supper to betray Jesus. And after this supper breaks up, Jesus will be abandoned by the present company. So this talk of love is not floating on top of a mellow meal with close friends and a good wine. The wine may or may not be good, but the meal has already been disrupted and the friends, however close spatially are hardly dependable. Only one of them will show up at the cross to be with Jesus when he dies; and as he watches that cruel death will he remember what Jesus says here? That this execution is the Father’s glorification of Jesus? Did the Beloved Disciple recognize then that the cruel death of this friend he loves was the glorification of God? Or did that only sink in after decades of letting go? Do you get the picture?
Yes, Jesus knows how rough loving is. Yes, Jesus is challenging–I find what he has to say pretty scary under these circumstances but that’s not what I mean. Do you get the bigger picture?
Jesus fully realizes that I won’t remember right away what he said; that I’ll misunderstand his promises. He doesn’t have to be told that I’ll be frightened and feel isolated and impotent. But he trusts that I will eventually remember. Jesus invests enough confidence in me that I’ll reach out for help and take someone’s hand and remember and begin to feel my way forward–and respond, discovering the love possible in this barren situation. Yes: even this barren situation can welcome love.
It’s like cooking: if I can risk doing something, get my hands dirty, make a few mistakes, let go of my preconceptions, I’m on my way to becoming a good cook. Can’t I risk that with loving? Can’t I start with trusting–as Jesus trusted me? After all, doesn’t his trust that I will at least try, isn’t that trust no less than being understood and loved by him? Aren’t we already, whether we know it or not, breathing in his love?