“Love One Another as I Have Loved You”
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
When we listen to Christ telling us to love one another as He has loved us, we are invited to come and learn how to love in a true, authentic way in the school of Christian Love—or the Course of Charity.
Charity, or Christian love, consists of the love of God as its origin and foundation. Saint John teaches that God is love and love comes from God. God, out of His great and unconditional love, made us in His image, giving us a heart that loves Him and our neighbor. It is this same heart that knows how to appreciate the love of God and that of our friends.
This is the first lesson that love is a gift from God alone, and that human being alone is capable of loving and of being loved.
In fact, animals have survival instinct that helps them preserving their offspring but never do their instinctive activities have anything in common with the love exclusively granted by God the Creator to a human person. Love, therefore, is a human act, involving both body and soul, emotion and mind, rights and responsibilities. In love, man finds the highest degree of expressions for his dignity by getting out of the prison of selfishness, overcoming all forms of discrimination, separation and division, and finally reaching the transcendent and supreme goodness of God.
Unfortunately human love because of sin has turned selfish, abusive, violent, materialistic, more instinctive than human, more bodily than spiritual. Human love, for this reason, needs being saved by the love of God which we can see, hear, and experience in Christ Jesus His Son.
It is Christ Who teaches us how to love one another as He has loved us, saying that “no one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Not only did Christ teach us the lesson of Christian love, he also put what he said into action. He died crucified on the cross to save our lives from sin and death. By so doing, Christ has saved human love, too.
This is the second lesson that true and authentic love needs the love of God to be its heart, life and soul. Human love without the love of God is lifeless and is reduced to many forms of abuse, such as mere flesh pleasure, trade of money and power, and the like. On the other hand, human love also needs the love of neighbor as its shape, its form. Saint John teaches that who says that he loves God but hates his brother is just a liar. The way we love our neighbor shows how much we love God.
This is how Christian love works in our everyday life: we love God because God has loved us in Christ Who laid down His life to save our lives, and as the result of this, we love one another because God loved us first.
Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.