The Gospel for this Sunday comes from Jesus’ Final Discourse at the Last Supper from the Gospel of John. These are the final words Jesus will speak to his disciples before his death on Good Friday. The final words that a person speaks before death are always given special consideration for obvious reasons.
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you…. This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you.” These words also come to us from the second reading, from the First Epistle of Saint John: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God.”
In the other three Gospels we hear of the Two Great Commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But here in John’s Gospel, we are only given one commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And then he makes it clear what that love is all about. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The love that Jesus offers us is a sacrificial, forgiving, and generous love. It is not the sentimental love that consists of warm fuzzies (as we used to say) and nice feelings. It is, as the Song of Songs says, a love that is as strong as death. This is the love that you and I are called to. This is holy love.
In the second reading, John goes on to say, “Love then consists in this, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us.” We reflect on the love that God has for us and seek to grow in that love for one another.
In the end, at the end, as we lay on our death beds looking back over our lives, there will be only one question that we will need to concern ourselves with, “Did I learn how to love?”