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Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C) 19th May 2019

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Gospel John 13:31-35

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. 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.”


Today it is difficult to come up with something new. Even 16/17 year olds have ‘seen it all’. Yet, we expect a person’s last words to be more sacred and significant than most of the other things he or she said in the course of a lifetime. Impending death has a way of sharpening what we say. So, on the night Jesus was betrayed and Judas had vanished into the night, Jesus began his last words with his disciples. He told them that he would be with them only for a short while. A statement that devastated them. Then Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another’. Was this really a new commandment? You’ll find the same words centuries before Jesus in the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18) ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’. These words were prominent in Jewish tradition. Where people have been civilized, there has been an awareness of the critical importance of loving one’s neighbour. So, why does Jesus refer to it as something new? ‘Love one another’, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, - ancient commandments. However when these words are genuinely heard and subsequently obeyed, there is utter newness. New revolutionary things begin to happen. Consider how new and even startling it was when centuries after Leviticus, a man appeared in Palestine who loved his neighbour as himself. When the commandment was actually lived out, something so new happened that it threatened all those who had invested in the status quo. The religious establishment in Jerusalem couldn’t handle Jesus’ radical fulfilment of the ancient commandment they had known all their lives. The commandment to love was old, as long as it stayed in print. When it was embodied it was altogether new, with awesome implications. In Jesus a higher kind of love was revealed, as Divine love transforms all known forms of loving. Jesus’ love was like God’s love, gracious and self-giving to the point of costly sacrifice. ‘No one has greater love than this’, Jesus said ‘than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’, (John 15:13) then he demonstrated that love on the cross. Jesus also said that faithfulness to his new commandment was how the disciples would be recognised in the world, ‘By this everyone will know, that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. We are not to be known by our spirituality or our piety, or by our superior knowledge, college degrees – but by the way we love. Even the pagans in the early days of Christianity, remarked among one another ‘See these Christians how they love each another’ (Acts). With respect to the writer of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament there really is something new under the sun!’

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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