The Glorifying Love of Jesus Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C
Acts 14:21-27 Revelation 21:1-5A John 13:31-33A, 34-35
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus gives us a New Commandment, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”. Brant Pitre points out that according to the Old Testament only God gives commandments. Since the Old Testament was the written Bible at the time of Jesus, by giving a New Commandment Jesus is revealing to His disciples His divinity.
To understand what Jesus means by the word “love” in His new commandment it is important, as Bruce Marshall teaches, to interpret this word in light of the one, unbegotten Word of God the Father spoken from all eternity in the Love of the Holy Spirit. We only can use words, to speak and think with words because we are made in the image and likeness of God, and, as a consequence can reason and use language, but always imperfectly due to our Fallen State, and due to our inherent imperfection as creatures.
May we allow Jesus the one perfect divine Word, to purify, to perfect, and to bring out the fullness of meaning of all the words we use, especially important words we use often.
Before we reflect on the word love and how Jesus fulfills this word by revealing its perfect meaning may we briefly reflect on another word Jesus uses in today’s Gospel passage, the word glorify.
In using this word, first translated into Greek by John and then into the multiple languages of the world, Jesus says, “Now is the son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified”. The word glorify, and associated words, is typically used in reference to powerful, or at least influential people, to people who are glorified due to their success.
How, though, did Jesus glorify his heavenly Father? Jesus glorified his heavenly Father by what looks to the world as a total failure. Jesus glorified his heavenly father by being crucified on the cross and only when all seems lost, when all seems to be complete failure, rising from the dead. Jesus glorified the Father by being perfectly obedient to the Heavenly Father even when Jesus’ feelings, when Jesus’ natural human impulses did not tend towards death on the cross as indicated by Jesus’ words, “Father, take this cup away from me, but nonetheless not my will but thy will be done.”
Jesus glorified His Heavenly Father by his patient, obedient suffering. Jesus glorified the Father by love that precisely because it was suffering, patient love is perfect, true love.
In glorifying the Father with eternally patient, love Jesus reveals another way of defining the word glorify. He gives the word glorify and related words their fullness of meaning. The word glorify in Christianity is ultimately defined by Jesus’ suffering love on the cross, where his crown of victory, was a crown of thorns.
We now turn our attention the word love to see how Jesus fulfills this word by giving it its fullness of meaning. Some languages only have one word for expressing the reality of love. Providentially, though, the Aramaic word love that Jesus used when teaching his disciples was first translated into the Greek language when the New Testament was written. The Greek language has several words for love, for example, eros, filia, storge, and agape. Simply explained, for the ancient Greeks, erosis love of desire such as experienced by a man courting a woman. Filiais love between brothers, and by extension, between sisters. Storgecan be understood as love of country. Finally, we come to agapelove which, as Benedict XVI explains, rarely was used by the ancient Greeks but this word was chosen by the New Testament writers as one of the best words to express divine love.By so doing, agapelove was given new meaning, love was given its fullness of meaning by the perfect Word Jesus Christ who was born into this world, died on the cross out of love for us and rose from the dead.
The agape love of Jesus is not intended to replace other types of love (desirous love, fraternal love, patriotic love)but rather is intended by Jesus to bring give these types of love their fullness of meaning. It is not a question of elimination of various types of love but rather of these various types of love to be directed, and formed by the gift of Jesus’ divine, agape love. As Pope Francis affirms this love of Jesus “is first and foremost a grace, a gift. To love is a gift of God. And He gives it willingly, if we ask.”
Today may we allow Jesus, the perfect eternal Word of the Father to perfect our use of words, to perfect our understanding of words, and to perfect how we live, for actions speak louder than words, actions are the way we are to live in accordance with the one eternal loving Word of the Father who become flesh.
Brant Pitre, “The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C),” catholicproductions.com.
Bruce Marshall, Trinity and Truth(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” w2.vatican.va, http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html, no. 3.
Hannah Brockhaus, “The Holy Father reflected March 15 on the passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans that says: ‘Let love be sincere.’,” ncregister.com,http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-love-is-a-gift-of-god.