Liturgy, speaking cynically by some, is doing “the God thing”. More gracefully-speaking, it is actually God doing “the human thing”. Our concept of God is that the Divinity is tending reverently to creation and the continuous creation of us as God’s highest art work. God does this “human thing” by coming to us where we are, as we are and loves us so that God does not just leave us there.
We prepare for our celebration of God’s doing the “human thing” by receiving gratefully all the other ways and forms within which God continues our individual and universal creation and salvation. We gather together to pray with others who are allowing God to enter their hands and lives not only during the liturgy, but all the ways God gardens us.
We hear in the First Reading for this liturgy, that Paul and his band of preachers went on from the town of Derbe to preach to the Gentiles. What is amazing here is that Paul has just risen from his being stoned by some Jews who had followed him from Antioch where Paul had been preaching. They dragged him out of town and left him for dead. Preaching the Good News was, and still is, dangerous to ones health. Paul rose and, as we hear, Paul returns to Antioch and exhorts the believers to hang in there even though there might be a little resistance.
The Gospel relates Jesus’ speaking to His disciples immediately after Judas has left the group in the Upper Room to betray Jesus. Jesus is pictured in a prayerful spirit of surrendering to time. His hour for glorification is arriving. In John’s theology, “glory” has to do with the more complete revelation of Jesus and the highest expression of this, is Jesus on the throne of His Cross. In a sense, Jesus is saying, from the Cross, “Now you can see the depth of God’s love for you through me.”
After these words of pondering, Jesus speeds up as one does when leaving. I have noticed that at the end of a house party, there is much standing at the door or out on the steps of the house and many important things are said. Future dates, or phone calls are arranged, someone forgets something that was promised during the evening and is back in the house. Kind words of affection and thanksgiving are exchanged and promises of future dinners or social activities are shared. It all happens at the end and quite quickly. These are sometimes the most sincere and loving things explicitly spoken.
Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples and given them an instruction about how they will live His presence. That was the gesture of loving care, now He says His important words at the end, on the doorstep of time. For John, there is no narrative of Jesus’ instituting the Eucharist. Here at the Last supper He is saying, “Do this in memory of Me.” Loving one another is how we remember, how we do the “remembering”. We remember Him in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup. We live lovingly as a remembrance of His love for us.
So these words are his final instructions as they all begin to end the Passover party. Jesus has never said these exact and explicit words to them of the importance of loving each other. He has lived those words in His actions, but now He comes right out and lays down the law which He will repeat in chapter fifteen and live explicitly through His passion and death.
Yesterday I hosted a group of students from our university who are dating “seriously”. I had made a general invitation for such couples to come for an afternoon of reflection about, not dating, but dating “seriously”. We began by asking what “seriously” meant to them. For some it could mean preparing to be engaged, for others it could mean involved beyond just “hanging out”. They were deciding to “hang in”.
The major prayer for them and later discussion centered around love of course. Jesus loved by giving His life for and to others. Giving life to others means that I want to give you more and more awareness of your truth and by my acceptance of your truth; I want to help you accept all of your gifts and goodness. This is a long process and love is shown in patience then.
In a “serious” loving relationship, I seriously receive your giving me more and more of me as well and helping me become aware and accepting of who I am. Jesus gave people themselves, gave them back their lives and dignity, but always for the purpose of their giving, donating, doing something with the truth of who they were. Loving one another means that both persons are the lovers and beloved. Both are “enloved” to love beyond just each other. It is true that we cannot give away what we do not have. Loving each other results in our being freed by being loved, to love what we have received, (ourselves) and having received ourselves more gratefully, we can donate ourselves more generously, or “seriously”.
Last night I received an email from a student asking me, of all persons, about just how he could approach a young female student and begin a “serious” relationship, he was not at the afternoon gathering. The “how” of fulfilling the command to love is the subject of many books and movies, I guess. The “why” is more important. Jesus washed feet, dried tears, fed folks, cured them, and helped them have a good time of it. He had many “hows”, but only one “why”. God so loved this world and Jesus lived that love for this world and His presence in this world is expressed by our living that same love in as many “hows” as we have moments.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
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