Acts 14:21b-27; Rev. 21:1-5a; Jn. 13:1, 31-33a, 34-35
A few years ago a Newspapers reported a touching incident.
While on vacation in Florida, Gareth Griffith, decided to try sky diving. He was jumping in tandem with Michael Costello, an experienced instructor. Something went wrong.
The main chute failed to open. The backup failed too. The two men went into a violent spin as they plummeted to their destiny. The instructor corrected the spin and regained control of the fall. Griffith was on bottom and the instructor was on top.
As they neared the ground, the instructor, folded his arms and legs, causing the pair to rotate, in doing so, the instructor hit the ground first, cushioning his student's blow.
Griffith survived. Costello wasn't so lucky—he sacrificed his own life so that Griffith could live.
During the Gospel Reading, we heard the words of Jesus “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”
The new commandment has to be understood against the prevailing law of the contemporary world. "An eye for an eye", "a tooth for a tooth" or the law of retaliation, is the principle that a person who has injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree, and the person inflicting such punishment should be the injured party. To those ears that at familiar with this principle the command of Jesus very strange. But Jesus made it very concrete with the next sentence. “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." He gave them a concrete example to follow.
Jesus included everybody in his love. One of the clearest features of the life and teachings of Jesus is the way that Jesus included people that everybody else left out. Jesus included criminals like the thief on the cross, the people that were unclean - those who did not keep all of the cleanliness laws and rituals, and people who were outcast – the Samaritans, Gentiles, the poor, the sick and lepers. Jesus always defined his mission on the basis of who is included, not on who is left out.
Jesus broke religious laws to help out casts and to express love for them. He healed the blind man on the Sabbath and broke the laws against working by making clay and by healing. Jesus did not waste time trying to decide who is to blame for sickness and pain. He just helped them out.
The listeners of Jesus experienced these qualities in the love of Jesus in various occasions. They experienced the love of Jesus in the form of compassion. During his ministry, he was delighted to welcome them whenever they clustered around him. He had an acute understanding of their need for warm acceptance.
Jesus showed great compassion for women. Israel was a patriarchal society in which women occupied a subordinate position and in many ways were treated as social and spiritual inferiors to men. It’s difficult to generalize, because rabbis differed among themselves on this issue, and fathers differed in the upbringing of their daughters. Husbands also differed in how controlling and restrictive they were with their wives. Jesus, however, was sensitive to the needs of all people whether male or female. He exhibited an all-inclusive compassion that broke through the traditional gender restrictions and taboos. In order to heal her, Jesus allowed a woman, who had been bleeding for twelve years, to touch him. Jesus welcomed her with her with great gentleness. Another woman, a prostitute, approached Jesus while he was eating in a Pharisee’s house. She poured precious ointment on Jesus’s feet and washed them with her tears. Compassionately, Jesus, who knew her penitence and faith, defended that bold, extravagant action and sent her away with a benediction of peace.
Widows especially elicited Jesus’s compassionate help. A typical example of Jesus’s attitude toward widows was his encounter with a funeral procession outside the city of Nain. A young man had died. He was the only child of his grief-stricken mother who faced loneliness and in all probability destitution. When Jesus saw the funeral procession and heard the mother sobbing, he was moved with compassion. “His heart went out to her”. He didn’t wait for any appeal. He acted. He touched the coffin, risking ritual contamination, and commanded the corpse to rise.
Jesus also broke through other barriers. He didn’t hesitate to touch lepers who were to avoid all human contact. He exercised his power on behalf of needy individuals regardless of their race. He healed the son of a centurion, an officer in Rome’s oppressive army. He healed the daughter of a pagan, a Canaanite woman.
The listeners of Jesus experienced the great patience of Jesus. When sinners were brought to him he patiently received them. So when Jesus spoke about the new commandment of love his hearers recollected how it was seen in the life of Jesus.
Jesus was a perfect example of kindness. The story of Good Samaritan and the story of the Prodigal son set before the listeners of Jesus new realms of kindness. There is nothing more astounding in the kindness of Jesus than his many gospel-recorded miracles —Jesus touches lepers, heals cripples and feed the hungry.
The love that Jesus showed them is a type of love that is shown in service and sacrifice. Jesus tells the disciples that all will know that they are his disciples because of the love they show for one another. This description of the early Christian community was seen in the Acts of the Apostles: “See how they love one another.” Christian love is the hallmark of Christianity. We see it lived in the witness of the martyrs. We see it in the example of the lives of the saints. We see it in the holy women and men who live and love daily, making small and large sacrifices for others.
Let us do our little bit so that we will be remembered by everyone who come into contact with us.