Living by the commandment of love
April 19th, 2016
By Father Charles Puthota
Years ago, while studying theology in Delhi, India, I most enjoyed visiting the Taj Mahal a few times. The magnificent white-marble monument stands majestically on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra. From 1631, over 20,000 workers toiled for 22 years to complete the construction. It was built by the mogul emperor Shah Jahan to express his love for his wife Mumtaj Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child and to house her burial chamber. While this architectural marvel takes one’s breath away, what is even more amazing is the fact that it stands in testimony to love, the power of which draws millions of people from around the world.
Easter season is a time of God’s marvelous love. If one person could express his human love by building the Taj Mahal, imagine God’s inexhaustible love expressed through his son Jesus Christ who suffered and died – but rose from the dead, victorious over sin, evil, and death. In Jesus Christ God has built the most supreme and perfect shrine of love. All forms of human love relationships we celebrate and cherish take their origin in God whose love his son has shared with us in ways we can understand and accept. In Jesus Christ we are recreated as God’s masterpieces, saved for life and love, for freedom and fulfillment. In him God’s love for us is made resplendent and redemptive.
This mystery is underscored in the word of God this Sunday. We will share in the glory of God and of the son if we can live by the new commandment of love that Jesus gives us. Jesus wants us to love one another as he loves us. How has Jesus loved us? Totally, self-sacrificially, unconditionally, absolutely, radically. That is how we can become his disciples. Aren’t all the ills of the world attributable to the poor show of love people have for one another?
As disciples, we cannot hoard the love we have received from Jesus. As apostles, we have to share it. The summary of Christian life is: Come and go. Come to Jesus to be his disciples – and go to preach the good news as apostles. The first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas reminds us of what we need to do for our times. We too have to preach, teach, make disciples, inspire new Christians, energize the tepid ones, adopt creative ways, establish new structures, appoint elders, build up communities, and rejoice over the Spirit of Christ guiding the pilgrim church.
All this will give us a serene and secure sense of God’s presence in the world: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.” In the Incarnation, Jesus is Emmanuel, God-is-with-us. In the Easter mystery, Jesus reassures us that he will be with us always, even to the end of time. Our tears will be wiped away. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. The challenge for us as church is not to live side by side with the world, but to be the church in the modern world, upholding the eternal truths and being capable of speaking to the world of today.
We could propose to ourselves these three practical ways of proceeding. One, the centrality of discipleship lies in our deep abiding union with Jesus Christ. All that we do in terms of our Catholic life has to converge on the person of Christ and what he means for our human enigmas. Two, we are lifelong pilgrims journeying between discipleship and apostleship; contemplation and action; prayer and proclamation; profession and practice. Three, we need to rearrange all our plans and priorities to be able to love self-sacrificially like Jesus. That is how Jesus and we together can “make all things new” for the greater glory of God.
Father Puthota is pastor of St. Veronica Parish, South San Francisco, and director of Pastoral Ministry for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
From April 21, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.