“No One Has Greater Love Than This, To Lay Down One’s Life For One’s Friends” (Jn 15:13)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
With just one single click on Google to look for the word “love”, you will get just in 0.54 second 2.21 billion results.
This is no doubt an evidence that love is something amazingly attractive and inspiring to humanity of all time and space.
It is sad, however, that love has been seriously misunderstood and misused in our today’s society.
One, love has been reduced to a mere act of instinct, focused on the satisfaction of flesh pleasure.
Biologically speaking, there is something similar between human beings and animals in terms of the survival instinct, the strong desire between the two opposite sexes. But there is the basic difference between a man and an animal that while an animal acts according to its instinct without any awareness nor does it have freedom to decide, a man, on the contrary, understands the reason why he has to do so, the goal at which he aims and, above all, he is free to do it or not to do it.
With regard to love, only man is endowed by God with this priceless gift of loving God and others and of being loved by the Creator and his neighbor. Animals do not have the capacity of so doing. It is because they do not have a soul which God gave man when God breathed into man His spirit of life eternal. It is the soul that enables man to know what he is doing, what he is doing for, and the responsibility for doing or not doing it.
All that we human beings think or say about love in the world of animals is just a shadow, a blur and even distorted reflection of what we humans call love and project it on animals.
So, love, as noble as a human act, pertains to human beings. We love one another as human persons do, in a strong and clear sense of mutual respect for our equal human dignity and rights. We give ourselves as free gifts to one another and we receive one another with sincere joy and profound gratefulness.
Two, it is sad to see the reality that love has ceased being a free gift but has been turned into a product for trading interest, money or power. When they say that they love you they mean that they love not your person but rather your social position, your economic opportunities and your political promotion.
These are the very causes of the severe crisis of families and society which we suffer now and to which we have not found a proper solution yet.
To all of us who are looking for such a solution, Jesus our Lord and Savior says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. This is the right powerful and just unique answer to the question of the true and authentic love that will save us from the evil forces in all their forms even if they are disguised as love.
We need being sent to Jesus’ school of love where we have to follow up the three degrees required for our graduation as true and authentic Christians.
The first degree is, “love your friends as yourself.” By so doing, you consider your friends as equal to you in all aspects of life. They should enjoy whatever you dream of for you yourself. They are inseparable parts of your life.
The second degree is, “love your friends as your friends love themselves.” By so doing, you forget yourself as though you no longer existed. Your only concern is how to make your friends happy.
The third and highest degree is, “love your friends as Jesus has loved them.” By so doing you are ready to do your best to meet the demands of your friends, even to lay down your own life.
In fact, Jesus has loved us and died on the cross for us. So Jesus’ love for us is true and authentic that has freed us from sin and death and brought us life that lasts forever.
Fr. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Nhut, O.P.