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Sunday: ‘As I Have Loved You’

WashingFeetSquareThis Sunday is the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C) and in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives his apostles — and us — a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” But how? He’s God, we’re not. He loved us by creating us, giving us the sacraments, dying in our place, rising and founding a Church for us. We, um, can’t do any of that.

So, what does he mean? Jesus could be referring to what he has just done: He has washed their feet, and he has given himself to them in the Eucharist. That’s a good start. And it means:

Love others by serving their real needs.

Don’t be the kind of “helper” who does what you want for others, not taking the time to figure out what kind of help the person needs the most. We prefer to do what is convenient for us, whether it is what someone needs or not. To love like Jesus means to give them what serves them, not what serves the giver.

Love others whole-heartedly.

Jesus, in the Eucharist, puts his whole self at the disposal of others. We should, likewise be fully present to the people we’re helping. Don’t do the minimum for someone: Do the maximum in the time you have. Sending money is good; acts of service are better.

Another lesson we can draw from the reading is taken from what Jesus is about to do: Suffer and die for us in the passion. To imitate that love we should:

Love others without expecting thanks.

So often we love with repayment in mind: Probably not in a crass quid pro quo way, but we at least expect that warm feeling of serving others and being appreciated for it. Absent that, our enthusiasm to serve others might disappear. We should look for opportunities to serve in the quiet humble way that gets nothing in return.

Love others at a personal cost.

Where your heart lies, there your treasure lies says Jesus. I like to think of it this way: You are willing to go into debt for what we truly love. Too often, that means the things listed on our credit card receipt a list of what we truly love. But we consider it irresponsible to go into debt for charity.

The Church gives us an example of this love in the first reading.

Paul and Barnabas travel around gaining “a considerable number of disciples.” Their success is at the same time uncompromising and uplifting: “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’”

Christians spreading the Good News, which is what people really need. Christians putting their whole self into their service, to the point of embarking on long journeys. Christians praying and fasting in response to success, keeping the sacrificial quality to their love.

They were able to love like Jesus. We have the same graces they did.

The Gregorian Institute is Benedictine College’s initiative to promote Catholic identity in public life by equipping leaders (the Gregorian speech digest), training leaders (the Gregorian Fellows), defending the faith (the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom), and celebrating Catholic identity (the Catholic Hall of Fame).

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes is vice president of college relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer and then spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. He writes weekly for Catholic Vote, the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Catholic Digest. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and nine children.