Who would you die for? Just think about that for a second… who would you die for? Your spouse … children … parent … close friend? Would you die for a total stranger? Notice too what Jesus says here: “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” … You see here, Jesus makes the most explicit statement on what it means to love as He loves … sacrifice … death. A further point to consider is the Greek understanding of the word ‘friend’ – In English it is rendered as ‘those who share a mutual bond of affection. In Greek it means ‘those who are loved’ … Who does Jesus love – His Apostles? Yes. His family? Yes. Strangers? Yes. His enemies? Yes … What is He saying … If my love is demonstrated in a sacrifice, in a death for all, in which the result is the gift of Divine Life, the gift of eternal salvation … in this is my love made known and if you, we, are to act in accordance with this love … we too must die. We too must be turn our lives into a sacrifice for others.
How do we do that though? Consider the Greek understanding of ‘commandment’ – in our post-Christian and post-Enlightenment world, we tend to think of this as demands, rules to be followed. The Greek term, however, gives us an entirely different perspective … it means ‘precepts, or directives’ which basically means instructions. We could then interpret Jesus’ saying in John’s Gospel as this: “if you love me, follow my instructions, my directives.” Notice here that there is no force … Jesus does not demand anything from us … He respects our freedom because, for love to be real it must be free. We don’t get to choose which directives we are to follow because we are not in Catholic buffet line … yet at the same time, we are free … and this freedom is the freedom to die … to die to our selfish desires, to die for others, to sacrifice our own wants, needs, desires … to let go of the things we hold on to – hurts, grievances, wounds of the past … From the desire to be served, from the desire to be first in line, from the desire to be jealous, vain, pompous, from the unwillingness to forgive, from the unwillingness to look more deeply into the Church’s teachings – particularly on relationships, love, sex and marriage … Friends … Jesus is calling us to a humility that is equal to the complete annihilation of the self that gives way to Him living in us – to becoming a more perfect reflection of Christ in our words and deeds.
And you know what that means … Confession! It means spending time in Eucharistic Adoration – because just like when we stand in the sun on a beautiful day we cannot help be effected by its rays so too when we kneel before God in adoration we cannot help but soak Him in! It means less of me and more of Him – but we have to follow His ways, His directives, His instructions … this makes those famous words of St. John the Baptist come alive: He must increase and I must decrease.