Indeed, what Jesus taught, he lived in his own life. His unconditional way of loving is well-known to everyone. No one was excluded from his love, unless they chose to exclude themselves. He reached out to the infamous taxcollectors, to public sinners and to hated Samaritans. He even publicly pleaded forgiveness, while hanging on a cross, for those who were murdering him. In short, Jesus is telling us that if we want to be his followers, our only choice is to walk on his footsteps, to live the same life he lived, to love with the same kind of love he loved. The commandment to love my neighbor as myself he changed into “Love one another as I have loved you”.
In our lives we often think in business terms. What’s in it for me? It is easy to love those who love me, those who can give me something back in return. Just ask any young couple who are getting ready to get married, “why do you love your partner”? Almost invariably the answers would be because he/she makes me happy, gives me what I need, fills my life, helps me fulfil myself. There is always that element that I love someone because they do something for me, or improve my life. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. According to Jesus, it is simply not enough. To test myself as to whether I live my life as a true follower of Jesus, I have to ask myself how do I respond to wrongs received? How do I relate to those who do not love me, or who cannot give me anything?
It is providential that this passage is being presented to us for our reflection during the week when we begin Lent. Lent is a time when we are invited to improve our lives, to do that qualitative leap Jesus is asking for. And, during this time, the Church gives us some tools to help us do what, by our own efforts, we cannot do. Because, let’s be honest, what Jesus is asking is not easy! More quality time for prayer, aided by almsgiving and some sacrifice (the three things which are greatly encouraged for Lent) will surely help us in achieving our holy desires.
The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran’s words about Love serve as a fitting conclusion for today’s reflection:
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
… And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips.