I think that most people would describe themselves as being loving people. If I were to poll everyone here and ask, “Do you generally love other people,” I imagine that most people would say yes. So when we hear Jesus in the Gospel say, “This I command you: love one another,” a lot of us probably feel like we basically have it covered. Sure, we could be a little more loving to the neighbor who lets their dog use our yard or the aunt who can’t stop posting crazy political things on Facebook every day, but, by and large, we are pretty loving people, and Jesus commanding us to love one another doesn’t feel like much of a challenge.
But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to love. He tells us how we are to love. “This is my commandment,” He says, “love one another as I love you.” We aren’t just told to love, but to love like Jesus loves us. As disciples, we are commanded to love others in the same way that Jesus loves us. And how does Jesus loves us? The second reading gives us that answer. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Jesus loves us by giving Himself completely for our sake. The love of Jesus is not simply a matter of sentiment and warm feelings. It is a sacrificial love, a love that is willing to give absolutely everything for the sake of the other. And we didn’t deserve this love. Jesus didn’t sacrifice Himself for our sake because we earned it. His love is completely gratuitous.
That is how Jesus loves us, and that is how we are called to love other people. Our love for others is not just supposed to be a love of happy thoughts and good feelings, but a love that is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the other person. To be a disciple of Jesus means to love like Jesus with a self-giving, sacrificial love, a love that is willing to embrace even the pain of the Cross. And, like Jesus, our love is supposed to extend to every person, regardless of who they are. People should not have to earn our love as disciples.
That is who we are supposed to be as disciples. And here’s the thing, the world knows that this is who we are supposed to be. The world knows that, as Christians, we are supposed to love like Jesus. And that is why the world often finds the actions of Christians so entirely incomprehensible. The world sees Christians who claim that there is no greater love than to lay down their lives for another, but then those same Christians are unwilling to even wear a simple facemask to keep other people safe. How would anyone believe that we are willing to endure the pain of the Cross for others if we cannot even tolerate the irritation of a little fabric? The world hears Christians talk about loving all people with the self-sacrificing love of Christ, and then hears those same Christians refuse to pay for social services for those in most need. How can we expect people to believe it when we claim to love everyone when we then refuse to help them acquire the basic necessities of life? Jesus endured the pain of the Cross for our salvation, but we are unwilling to even tell others about Him if it makes us even slightly uncomfortable. How can we claim to love like the one who would die for our sake when we will not endure the slightest hardship for others?
Our command as Christians is to love every person with the self-giving love of Jesus. In particular, we are called to show this kind of sacrificial love towards those who are most in need. The unborn child, the woman in a crisis pregnancy, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the outcast, the victim of discrimination, all of these people should be recipients of our self-giving love. This kind of love requires action on our part. We cannot love like Jesus only in word or in feeling, nor can we do it only when it is easy or convenient. Sacrificial love requires action, and action that expresses itself even when it is difficult and costs us, even when it means laying down our lives for another. For all of us, we should ask ourselves: what is the evidence in my life that I love like Jesus? How have I sacrificed for the sake of others in real, concrete ways?
It is perhaps fitting that we have these readings on Mother’s Day, as for many people our mothers were the first example of sacrificial love that we had in our lives. The innumerable sacrifices that mothers make, the way that they even literally give of their own bodies to give their children life and to sustain them, all of this provides a beautiful image of what it means to love with a self-giving love. To those who are mothers, we thank you for your lived example of sacrificial love. I also want to take a minute to acknowledge that, sadly, not everyone had a mother whose love modeled sacrifice and self-gift. For those whose mothers were unable to love as they should, we pray that the infinite love of Jesus and the perfect love of Mary, His mother and ours, would supply what was lacking in the love of your own mother and heal any wounds.
If we want to truly experience what it means to love like Jesus, we ultimately do not have to look any further than right here in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the self-giving, sacrificial love of Jesus is perfectly displayed. In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, empties Himself of His divine glory and splendor and, in humility, gives Himself completely to us under the appearance of bread and wine. We are invited to imitate what we celebrate here. Jesus in the Eucharist sets aside His rights and prerogatives as God in order to give Himself completely for our sake. He holds nothing back from us in this sacrament, but gives Himself to us completely for our sake. We could never hope to deserve such a gift, but He freely gives it to us.
Having received Jesus in this Eucharist, we are called to love others in the same way. We are called to give ourselves completely for others, regardless of what it costs us, not insisting on our own rights or what we think we deserve. This is what Jesus commands us to do, and it is also what the world needs of us. If we are going to be faithful to our mission to go and make disciples of all nations, then the world needs to see the example of Christians who love like Jesus. They have seen far too many examples of Christians who do not love like Jesus. The world needs to see Christians who give of themselves in love for others, especially for those most in need.