The New Commandment
(see Jn 13:31-33a)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
When Christ our Lord says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another”, He teaches us the following three important truths: one, we, as the people of the New Testament are given the New Commandment; two, the New Commandment orders us to love one another as our Lord has loved us; three, our true identity as Christians lies in the faithful observance of the Lord’s New Commandment.
In the Old Testament times, the Lord God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel. The Ten Commandments was the roadmap for them to reach freedom from slavery and obtain salvation in the Promised Land. Christians, the people of the New Testament, have the New Commandment, given to them by Christ, Who is the Way the Truth and the Life. The New Testament completes the Old Testament as though the reality completed a dream. In a like manner, the New Commandment completes the Old Commandment by pointing out that the very essential foundation, the heart, and the soul of the law is nothing other than love. As a matter of fact, the first three Commandments teach us how to express our love for God our Creator and Father in heaven by dedicating ourselves to the service and worship of Him and Him alone. The remaining seven Commandments teach us how to show our true and sincere love to our neighbors by committing ourselves to honoring parents, respecting their rights to life and properties, not telling lies and not doing harm to their happy families. This is why Saint Paul says, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Speaking of love, people often follow the principle of “do ut des”, Latin for “I give you in order that you give me back”. People trade interests even in the act of loving. They look for what they can benefit from the people whom they love. I love you because you are beautiful, powerful and useful. People are not the object, the aim but just the means of my love. Love itself is no longer the very noble act of the human person created after the image of God Who is love. Besides, love in today’s society has been reduced to the mere satisfaction of sexual desire. What does Christ want us to do when telling us to love one another the way He has loved us? He wants us to love people without expecting something in return. He wants us to love people just because they are God’s lovely image no matter how good or bad, friend or foe they may be. This is how Christ deals with us sinners. He never allows us to sin. He tells us to fight with our blood against the evil of sin but He so loved us that He laid down His own life on the cross to free us from the hand of sin and death. Christian love or charity is by no means a reaction based on human emotion and profit-oriented selection but proves to be already an act of profession of faith.
Easier said than done. There are people who, as our Lord once pointed out, worship God only with their lips. God our loving and caring Father wants true and authentic worshippers who serve Him in truth and the Holy Spirit. Saint John also teaches, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God Whom has not seen.” The love of God gives a soul, a life to the love of man, and the love of man a face, a body to the love of God.
Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.