Loving 'all the way'

Al Cariño
May 25, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

When a child falls and hurts himself at home, to whom does he run crying? More often than not, to his mother. And what does she do? She lovingly blows into and kisses the painful part and then tells the child that the pain is gone. And, like magic, the child feels relieved thereafter.

A mother's love is even more evident when her child gets sick. She attends to all his needs -- day and night. She makes him as comfortable as possible. She only sleeps when she feels that the child is already sleeping and breathing easily. But even while asleep, she has all her senses awake, listening for any sign of discomfort.

In both instances, we see the mother loving her child "all the way". It would not be farfetched to say that one of the closest approximation of God's love for us is that of a mother for her child. Still, it is a far approximation of God's love for us. For as God Himself has said, "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you." (Is. 49:15) God loves us "all the way".

His Son Jesus, too, has loved us "all the way". In the second reading (1 Jn. 4:7-10) John tells us, "In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him." In the gospel reading (Jn. 15:9-17), Jesus tells us that His love for us is the same as His Father's love for Him: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you." He also said, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends," and He carried this out by giving up His life for us in loving obedience to His Father's will. For Jesus, to love is to forget one's self in favor of the one loved.

Having shown how He has loved us "all the way", Jesus now tells us to also love Him "all the way". How? By keeping the commandments: "If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love."

What are these commandments? Jesus found the occasion to tell us what these are when one day one of the Pharisees asked Him, "Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?" Jesus answered quoting from the Old Testament, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with all your mind. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself." But at the Last Supper, He improved on the second greatest commandment, saying, "A new commandment I give you: Love your neighbor as I have loved you." With this, He raised our love for neighbor a notch higher -- as He had loved us.

Moreover, Jesus has made love the secret of happiness: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.... You are my friends if you do what I command." The precondition for friendship with Jesus and therefore happiness is to love. Jesus does not ask for anything less.

It is easy to say we love God. But loving our neighbors is something else. And who are we commanded to love? All those whom Jesus loves. Among these are the poor, tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers -- "the least of my brothers" -- who were ignored by Jewish society then. And Jesus wants us to love others not in words but in deeds. As John said, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 Jn. 4:20)

Imitating the kind of love Jesus has for us will make us better persons. It will enable us to love even those whom we consider unlovable, e.g., those who look down on us or who destroy our reputation, etc. And who knows, our love and forgiveness for them may also lead them to the source of our own love, Jesus, and make them His friends, too.

Easy to do? Of course not. But who says that loving is easy? The mother who spent sleepless nights taking care of her sick child does not say that loving is easy. Neither does Jesus -- He gave up His life for us to show us how dearly He loves us.

Following Jesus' example these days is no longer a matter of dying on a cross (though it still happens as shown by Fr. Rhoel Gallardo who, while in the hands of the Abu Sayaff Group in Basilan in May 2000, chose death rather than renounce his faith), but of living for the welfare of others. Regardless, this kind of loving still entails a lot of sacrifice. And this is what Jesus wants us to do if we are to remain in His love.

One final point. We want others to love us. And rightly so. But have we taken steps to make ourselves more lovable? Do we realize that doing so will make it less difficult for others to love us? Let us therefore exert more effort to make ourselves more lovable so as to make it easier for others to love us and thus become Jesus' friends, too.

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