Fifth Sunday of Easter
Jesus, in our reading today from the 4th Gospel, is gathered with the disciples for the Last Supper. He has washed the disciples’ feet and has explained this parable in action. Then Judas, one of his closest friends, leaves the place to betray him. Jesus’ first words after this devastating blow speak not of defeat but of victory: Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. This is his hour. Obviously, Jesus’ hour to pass from this world to the Father lasts more than a literal hour. It includes the last supper, his passion, death, and resurrection.
For the author of today’s Gospel, glory is the cross. Beauty and splendor flash from the cross to the revelation of the resurrection. Now, how is God praised and honored? There is no doubt that God is glorified in our worship. But, from Jesus’ point of view, God is glorified also when we love one another. I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also must your love one another. The commandment was new in the sense that it called for a universal love of the deepest intensity -the love with which he loves us. Moreover, the new commanment to love one another has no limitaions whatsoever without, unlike the old commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. Also, the intensity is different. The old commandment expected us to love others as much as we love ourselves. The new commandment tells us to love others as much as Jesus loved us.
To love one another as Jesus does is to love to the end, all the way, with one’s whole life unto death. The measure of love is Jesus. Just as he has loved us to death, so must our love be for each other. For John the evangelist, Jesus’ death is not only a manifestation of God’s glory, but an example of the extent of his love. Our love for one another must always be measured against Jesus’ example of love. The love we have for each other is how people will know that we are disciples of Jesus. Now, the question is: Can we really love in such a way?
The command to love is not an “all or nothing” proposition. To love as Jesus loved is a lifelong process whereby we are continually invited to grow and mature. Also, the call to love involves a cost. In the words of Paul and Barnabas (1st read.), We must undergo many hardships if we are to enter the kingdom of God. The present trials can deepen our love and strengthen our commitment to love, because he who first loved us is the One who says, See, I make all things new (2nd r.). The promise of the new heavens and the new earth comes from the One who dwelt among us as enduring love. It comes from the One who invites us to love in the same way.
The evangelist places Jesus’ new commandment between two prophecies -of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. One of you will betray me, Jesus had told his disciples. Judas eats a bit of food Jesus himself gives him; then goes out to betray him. The only food Jesus shares at this supper is with his betrayer. Judas leaves the supper at this point, and Jesus proceeds to impart his new commandment: As I have love you, so you must love one another. Immediately after this short address, Jesus prophecies Peter will deny him. What does John invite us to reflect by placing Jesus’ new commandment between the prophecies of Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial?
As we rejoice in the glory of the resurrection, today’s Gospel invites us to recognize the cross as the source of glory, to glorify God for his deeds, and to show by loving one another that we are disciples of Jesus.