I give you a new commandment: Group Hug!

The Gospel reading for the “Ordinary Form” for today is taken from John 13 wherein Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

It has been my experience that this reading is often followed by a homily that points to the Lord’s perfect Sacrifice as the prime example of what He is ultimately commanding us to do, and as such, we must die to self, patiently suffering those who oppose us, forgiving those who have wronged us, etc. In other words, hugs all around!  

Fair enough. I get it.

Where things typically breakdown, however, is when the homilist preaches as if standing silent as a lamb before its shearers and willingly offering His very life on the Cross is all that Jesus did.

I think it’s worth noting that while Jesus was indeed addressing every one of us in this command, He was speaking in a particular way to those men who would shepherd His flock, teaching, sanctifying and governing the people in His name.

In any case, it’s possible neither for the hierarchy of the Church, nor her children, to carry out this command apart from reflecting on the manner in which Our Blessed Lord loved us, contemplating His example in all of its fullness.

With this in mind, I offer just a small sampling of some of the more frequently overlooked words of loving kindness offered by the God who is love to His people:

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

“How can you speak good, when you are evil?”

“You hypocrites!”

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.”

“Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?”

“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

“You blind fools!”

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

Words of loving kindness? You bet your soft sensibilities they are.

Loving as Jesus loved means service and sacrifice to be sure, but it most certainly does not mean coddling avowed enemies of the Church, in spite of recent examples to the contrary (e.g., bishops who issue weak rejoinders to purveyors of death, hosting fancy dinners in their honor, and joining them in highfalutin fits of hilarity).

The bottom line is this: By all means we must love our enemies, but let’s not forget that loving as Jesus loved also includes wielding the sword of truth, proclaiming the Gospel with firmness, and condemning error, even when doing so is unpopular and may even invite death itself.