By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Our calling is to show forth God’s love in the world until Christ comes again.
What do you want to be when you grow up? When talking with children, that is one of the most frequently asked questions. We were probably all asked that question at some point, and we have probably posed the question to a child. Of course, it would be of children we ask the question because it gets really awkward when asking a thirty-seven-year old. It is a common question to ask children and appropriate because when it is asked, you can see children’s faces usually light up and become filled with hope and anticipation. The world is wide open to them and they like imagining all the things they could be. The answers too, are interesting.
We are asking what they want to do, but are often provided with a response that is an indication of who they are. Are they creative, nurturing, brave? The child who wants to be a teacher may have a nature that is caring and nurturing. The child who wants to be a first responder may naturally be courageous and caring. What we want to do may be an indication of what we are like.
What a privilege and blessing it would be to have one’s desired job and one’s character become the means of support and purpose in the world. If a person loves what he is doing, and the job is actually forming his character, and he is being sustained and supported by doing it, then it would not be work at all. How many of us have that privilege?
When I walk around the city and see the thousands pouring out of the T stations and making their way to the sidewalks to get to their jobs, or when I watch the traffic report and see the thousands of cars streaming into the city along the Mass Pike, or coming up from the Cape on Route 3, or down from the North Shore along Route 1 or 128, I think, “How many of the people in their cars are going off to work and have this privilege and blessing of doing something that they desire and is forming the person they are supposed to be? Are they like children that grew up and became what they wanted to be? Are they doing something that is part of their true nature?”
When we consider what we do and how that relates to who we are, we are dealing with our vocation. Vocation, from the Latin vocatio: a call or a summoning. To what are you called? We place a lot of value and weight on our work and jobs, not only because they are a means of making a living, but because they are part of our identity. Surveys have shown that the first two questions we ask of someone whom we have never met are: “Who are you?” and “What do you do?” There is nothing more personal to tell someone about yourself than your name. Right on the heels of that very personal question is: “What do you do?” To what has God called you to do with your life?
One of the vocations of the Christian is given to us in clear terms in this morning’s Gospel. It’s more than a calling or asking. It’s put in such clear terms as a “commandment”. It’s the New Commandment Christ gives to the disciples after Judas has left the Last Supper. A New Commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Jesus is mandating this at a time when He knew He was facing betrayal, persecution, and suffering.
This choosing to love must be necessary because the commandment is repeated in the Gospel by Jesus two more times after the Last Supper. In John’s Gospel Jesus repeats the commandment verbatim in His instructions, prayers, and farewell to the disciples just before He is arrested, crucified and resurrected. He repeats the commandment in John 15:12 and 15:17. It is clearly what all His disciples must do to prove and reveal that they love Him. They – and we, if we’re going to be His disciples – must love one another, and in truly following Jesus’ example we must choose to love even at times we find challenging and love the persons we find challenging.
Love is often an overused word for us these days. The problem with this overuse is that the deep and rich and powerful meaning of love, certainly in the Christian sense of the word, becomes changed and lost. Oh, I just love your dress. I love that apple cobbler. Didn’t you love the movie? The new blossoms are lovely. I am in love with my new car! These are all fine uses of love but despite the useful hyperbole they tend to diminish the true meaning of love. The kind of love Jesus gives us and the love that He indeed is.
We do not need to reinvent what love means, but we do need to discover or rediscover it. The Gospel for today forces us to find out what Jesus means by it and to not just know it, but do it. We are called to keep the Commandment. In keeping this New Commandment to love one another we are doing what we are called to do and growing more closely into what we ought to be like. In order to fulfill this commandment we must actually do something.
Action is in the very nature of this kind of love. Agape love, the Bible calls it. Agape is the word used to describe the love of God and distinguishes it from the other two kinds of love like passion or friendship. This love of God that Jesus wants shown between us and Him, and between us and God is something that is done. We need to remember that Jesus is teaching us that love is an action. It’s very easy for us to collapse love into a kind of sentiment, or warm, or even hot emotion. Agape love may bring with it a good deal of emotion and kind feelings, but it is not that. It is much more than that when it is shown. in John 3:16 we get the true meaning of God’s love, agape love: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. You can actually see, if you meditate on this passage, God taking action in the form of the Incarnation. It is God reaching outside of Himself, without diminishing Himself in any way, to become as we are. That is action.
Love, as something that is done, makes perfect sense too. The witness we make of love must be shown or it is not love, and the action that shows love must match true self-giving. A mother and father know that words are not enough to show love. Their baby is not going to know love unless the parents show the love with a kiss. Even if we can use words to show love, there still must be an action that matches true self-giving love. Love is something that is done, is chosen, and reflects the love Jesus commands us to take.
What is that love? I think it’s mainly acts that bring unity, not estrangement. Actions that reflect the oneness of God and His love for mankind. The worship of Him, just as we are doing right now. Prayer, and prayer that is in the name of and offered to the Trinity. Christians moved to actions that are clearly in the service of others. Loving those who may be lonely, some of whom are even in the midst of us. Taking those kinds of actions that bring people both inside the Church and outside the Church together. Working toward things that reflect the unity with Christ and His Father, with those of us who want to be His disciples, and unity between and among all people of good will. It means those kinds of actions that would be the love Jesus commands us in the Gospel.
May God continue to give us His grace to keep this New Commandment. May we keep it until we leave this earthly life and our life here in the world is ended. May we obey and keep the New Commandment until Christ comes back from His heavenly throne and claims His Church. Either way, we as Christians will be doing what we are supposed to be doing when we grow up. What do you want to be when you grow up? If we keep Christ’s New Commandment of loving one another then we will actually be doing what we are called to do, growing more and more into the likeness of Christ, and in the end we will be what we are supposed to do because we will be at one with the Father. We will be loving the One who is love. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.