The Strength of Love | A Homily by St. Josemaria Escriva
Let us now consider the Master and his disciples gathered together in the intimacy of the Upper Room. The time of his Passion is drawing close and he is surrounded by those he loves. The fire in the Heart of Christ bursts into flame in a way no words can express and he confides in them, ‘I give you a new commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
If you wish to get close to Our Lord through the pages of the Gospels, I always recommend that you try to enter in on the scene taking part as just one more person there. In this way (and I know many perfectly ordinary people who live this way) you will be captivated like Mary was, who hung on every word that Jesus uttered or, like Martha, you will boldly make your worries known to him, opening your heart sincerely about them all no matter how little they may be.
Lord, why do you call it a new commandment? As we have just heard, it was already laid down in the Old Testament that we should love our neighbour. You will remember also that, when Jesus had scarcely begun his public life, he broadened the scope of this law with divine generosity: ‘You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute and slander you.’
But, Lord, please allow us to insist. Why do you still call this precept new? That night, just a few hours before offering yourself in sacrifice on the Cross, during your intimate conversation with the men who — in spite of being weak and wretched, like ourselves — accompanied you to Jerusalem, you revealed to us the standard for our charity, one we could never have suspected: ‘as I have loved you’. How well the apostles must have understood you, having witnessed for themselves your unbounded love.
The Master’s message and example are clear and precise. He confirmed his teaching with deeds. Yet I have often thought that, after twenty centuries, it is indeed still a new commandment because very few people have taken the trouble to practise it. The others, the majority of men, both in the past and still today, have chosen to ignore it. Their selfishness has led them to the conclusion: ‘Why should I complicate my life? I have more than enough to do just looking after myself.’
Such an attitude is not good enough for us Christians. If we profess the same faith and are really eager to follow in the clear footprints left by Christ when he walked on this earth, we cannot be content merely with avoiding doing unto others the evil that we would not have them do unto us. That is a lot, but it is still very little when we consider that our love is to be measured in terms of Jesus’ own conduct. Besides, he does not give us this standard as a distant target, as a crowning point of a whole lifetime of struggle. It is — it ought to be, I repeat so that you may turn it into specific resolutions — the starting point, for Our Lord presents it as a sign of Christianity: ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.’
Our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate and took on our nature to reveal himself to mankind as the model of all virtues, ‘Learn from me,’ he says to us, ‘for I am meek and humble of heart.’
Later, when he explains to the Apostles the mark by which they will be known as Christians, he does not say, ‘Because you are humble.’ He is purity most sublime, the immaculate Lamb. Nothing could stain his perfect, unspotted holiness. Yet he does not say, ‘You will be known as my disciples because you are chaste and pure.’
He passed through this world completely detached from earthly goods. Though he is the Creator and Lord of the whole universe, he did not even have a place to lay his head. Nevertheless he does not say, ‘They will know that you are mine because you are not attached to wealth.’ Before setting out to preach the Gospel he spent forty days and forty nights in the desert keeping a strict fast. But, once again, he does not tell his disciples, ‘Men will recognise you as God’s servants because you are not gluttons or drunkards.’
No, the distinguishing mark of the apostles and of true Christians in every age is, as we have heard: ‘By this’, precisely by this, ‘shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
I think it is perfectly understandable that God’s children have always been deeply moved, as you and I are now, by our Master’s insistence on this point. ‘The Lord does not say that the proof of his disciples’ faithfulness will be the working of wondrous miracles and prodigies, although he gave them the power to perform them, in the Holy Spirit. What does he tell them? “You shall be known as my disciples if you love one another.”‘
“The Strength of Love” is an excerpt from the homily given by St. Josemaria Escriva on April 6th, 1967. The homily is published by Scepter Publishers in the book “Friends of God”.
Reproduced by the St. Josemaria Institute courtesy of the Studium Foundation. The content is intended for the free use of readers, and may not be copied or reproduced without permission from © The Studium Foundation (www.escrivaworks.org).