Recently at Sunday Mass we had a very short Gospel (John 13:34), where we heard Jesus say to His disciples, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also must you love one another.” In reflecting on this verse, I thought of two lessons taught to us by Jesus, as pertinent today as they were back then.
While many words come to mind when thinking about Jesus, the two that jump out at me are “love” and “truth.” While Jesus is love, expressing it in word and action to all those he encountered, he is also truth, never acquiescing or compromising on His beliefs. If Jesus believed someone to be wrong, he told him so with love.
Matthew Kelly, one of my favorite Catholic authors, defines love as helping another to become a better version of himself. A good and simple example is not letting a five year old fill up on cookies before dinner. While it may make him happy, it’s not good for him, therefore not helping him become a better version of himself. As such, to deny him the cookies is to love him.
Prior to our oldest getting married, we felt called to have a conversation with her and her then fiancé about his job situation. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have. We felt that we needed to have it because we were concerned about their thinking on the subject and the long-term ramifications to their relationship. It would have been easier and made them plenty happy had we said nothing. Instead we decided to speak truth in a charitable and loving way. We were expressing our concerns along with our love. We were trying to help them become better versions of themselves.
At the end of the conversation, we conveyed to them that it would be the last time we spoke to them on the subject. We expressed our love and best wishes for them, indicating that they needed to live their own lives. Saying it is one thing while living it is another. Critical to us allowing them to live their lives was us not obsessing over the issue. We spoke truth and then needed to let it go. To be so invested in others’ lives to the point where we can’t be happy unless they are doing well or living consistent with our wishes is unhealthy and creates in us worry.
Jesus spoke charitably, with love, always stating the truth, helping all He encountered to be better versions of themselves. He then didn’t obsess, but instead allowed those He shared with to decide how they were going to live their lives. Jesus modeled for us two aspects as to how we’re to love others.
By the way, please don’t think for a second that I’ve always had the spiritual and emotional maturity to approach the situation described above the way we did. There was a time, prior to my walk with Jesus, that loving someone else was about what it did for me. My ego was such that I always needed to be right; I needed to control everything. It is only in understanding and internalizing God’s unconditional love and forgiveness that I can love others the way Jesus demonstrated it for us.
Going back to our daughter and her now husband, all the worry in the world on our part wouldn’t have changed anything. Instead, we had to trust in God and trust in them. As it turns out, they’ve made some really good decisions, including giving us our first granddaughter on January 16, 2016. Little Lucy Elizabeth has been an incredible blessing.Thank you, Jesus.