The Gospel for today will be read again on this coming Sunday. It contains the very familiar admonition to “love one another as I have loved you.”
As I am sure you are aware, the Greek language has several different words for what we call “love.” In this case, we might do well to substitute the phrase “cling to” for the word “love.” Jesus is continuing to ask us to “remain” with him.
This concern was raised for several different reasons. First of all, by the time this Gospel was written, the Church was already beginning to experience some defections. Early fervor for the faith had diminished as it became clear that Jesus was not returning as soon as was earlier thought.
Secondly, there was a group of people in the community who were separating themselves from the poor and illiterate members. Rather than share a common table and a common lifestyle as we heard described in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, the community had begun to change toward the end of the first century.
Thirdly, the early converts to Christianity were not unanimously in favor of allowing Gentiles to participate in Christian worship and community.
So the evangelist makes a very impassioned plea for unity through his use of the word “love.” He is asking that all Christians, rich and poor, Jewish and Gentile, cling to Jesus and to one another. For the evangelist, love for neighbor was demonstrated by remaining in community with all believers rather than separating into factions.
This idea of love is needed in today’s Church just as much as it was at the time of John the evangelist. The lack of unity among Christians is one thing. However, there is even division within the community of Roman Catholics. The Gospel calls us to unity, to clinging to Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, to living in peace with our neighbors whoever they may be.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator