Living In The New Dispensation of Love
Readings: (1st: Acts 14, 21-27; Ps: 144, 8-13; 2nd: Rev 21, 1-5; Gos: Jn 13, 31-35)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the parochial vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details contact him on:firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +23408063767512
This fifth Sunday of Easter, Jesus takes us a step further. As he gradually approaches his Ascension and final departure, he hands us a new promise and commandment of love, which is very important in our witness for Him. In today’s first reading, Paul affirmed a truth which many of us shy away from and vehemently deny: “We all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.” We should note carefully, that Paul leaves no exception when he says “We all.” However, it is unfortunate that many so called “men/women of God” these days preach a Crossless Christianity, which is a contradiction of what the apostles of Jesus Christ preached and experienced. It suffices to note that it is the love for the word of God, the kingdom of God, and of course of our neighbours or of one another that motivates one to endure sufferings and hardships. Without this love whatever one does becomes an empty sacrifice or for selfish interest. Love is out going and so reaches out to others irrespective of the difficulty one has to go through in order to accomplish it. Hence, love for others must propel us to seriously look out for them wherever they are in order to share with them the joys of being Disciples of Christ.
In the second reading of today God promises to make all things new: “I am making the whole of creation new.” What a promise! But how are we expected to live in this new dispensation that God has brought about by the rising of Jesus from the dead unto glory? We find this answer in the gospel of today from Jesus himself who gives us a new commandment necessary for us to live in this new dispensation instituted by God. Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment, LOVE one another; …, you MUST love one another…” Here Jesus lays down the rules, the principles and the commands that will guide us to live safely in this new dispensation. “Another” here does not in any way refer only to the Disciples of Christ but it is all encompassing irrespective of religious inclination, race, or background. Of course this is not neglecting the fact that “charity begins at home”. The early Christian community lived this very well and so attracted such comments from their admirers: “see how they love one another” (as Tertullian noted in Apology [39.7] in the 3rd Century).
Indeed only those who possess this quality and actually live them out sincerely can truly enjoy life in the New Jerusalem that God has prepared for us all. It is only in the hearts and among the faithful who have love for the other that God will dwell as he promises to do. In talking about love here therefore, it is not to be construed in the way our society and world understand it because, the word itself means different things to different people. This is ranging from positive to negative passions, from real to fake expression of emotions, and from altruistic intentions to ego centric intentions. Instead, the love that we need in this new dispensation is that which bears the character that Paul describes in I Cor 13. The love that cares without exploiting the other, that forgives, that empathizes, and that is garnished with humility. This love as many of us may wish to say may be blind yet, very sensible, reasonable and godly. The love that Christ talks about here is an Identification Mark or Code. He says: “…by this love everyone will know that you are my disciples.” In other words, it is what defines a true disciple of Christ. The love of Christians for one another should be the distinguishing mark by which the world recognizes them as followers of Jesus. This kind of sacrificial love is what F. A. Schaeffer has referred to as “the final apologetic” (Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1970), 138.This love is a mark of the newness of life that Christ brings to his people this Easter season.
Finally, it is important to note that what Christ gives us is a command, i.e. an Imperative, and so it must be obeyed to the latter. Therefore as true Disciples of Christ we must obey Christ’s command to the latter even in difficult situations. We can truly bless the Lord’s name forever only when we love another as Christ commanded us to do.
Peace be with you!