We are still in the Easter season of ‘new life – new hope’ and we can use this maxim to remind us that each day really is one of new life and hope. We have only to look around us: nature is bursting into new life, green leaves on the trees and seedlings sprouting are telling us that we are entering into new fresh growth.
In today’s gospel, we are told about the boundless love of God, and Jesus is asking us to widen our circle to include all peoples and nations: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus asks us to love each other first and there is much wisdom in that. St Catherine of Siena believed that “the heart is always drawn by love”, I believe this and it is a source of great peace.
Of course, being encouraged to love one another was not new, for it had long been part of the Jewish faith tradition and the Greco-Roman world. It was noted by the second century Christian theologian Tertullian, however, that the Romans noticed how Christian behaviour was different; ‘See how they love one another’, was how they expressed it. What is different in today’s gospel is the way Jesus taught us by example, to turn that love into compassionate action, and so help to transform people’s lives. He is asking us to be peacemakers.
Pope John Paul XXIII when he was shown his bedroom in the Vatican saw a large crucifix above his bed. He asked for the crucifix to be moved to the opposite wall, so he could see it every morning when he woke up. The reason for this he said, was that the outstretched arms of the crucified Christ represented for him an open inclusivity – that Christ’s message was a ‘giving and loving embrace’ to all people in the world.
How we treat people is the test – it is not easy to love everybody, and it is not easy for everybody to love us. The source of Jesus’ ability to love everybody was the Spirit within him. A question I often ask myself is, ‘Am I a peacebuilder or a conflict maker?’ Let us call on our own inner spirit – ever renewed by the Holy Spirit of Peace – to continually encourage us to be inclusive and compassionate with each other, and build God’s wholeness on earth by striving to be peacemakers.
Sr. Susie O’Rawe OP