The WORD in Other Words by Fr Pablito Tagura SVD (USA)
5th Sunday Easter, Acts 14:21-27, Revelations 21:1-5a, Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
Jesus in John‘s gospel today requires us to show a proof of our identity as disciples, not through a legal document, but by our love for one another. Not just any kind of love but one patterned after His love.
This gospel episode from John appears to be his version of the great commissioning found in Mark and Matthew where Jesus instructs the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations and teach them all that he has commanded them. (Mk. 16:15—16; Mt. 28:19—20) Mark and Matthew emphasize preaching and teaching, whereas John stresses on love through service as our mission mandate
How then are we going to share the love of Jesus? First we have to be with him because he said: “Abide in me, as I abide in you. I am the vine, you are the branches; those who abide in me, and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:4—5). Being with Christ (communion) leads to becoming like Christ (formation) and then to living for Christ (service/ministry).
Our true identity as disciples is anchored in the awareness of being chosen and loved by God through Jesus. In God‘s eyes, we are his children, so our identity is in Him and kept by Him. In Isaiah 49, He said: “I have carved your name on the palm of my hand.” Our self—worth then depends on the ONE who chose, blessed and gifted us with life. Only God‘s love in Christ provides the center of our identity, not wealth, power and fame. Discipleship should not primarily mean losing or giving up something but finding SOMEONE, beyond compare, who loves us unconditionally.
God permeates our depths like a light shining within that awakens us to our true self and causes change to occur from inside. Thomas Merton calls it “a journey in which we discover ourselves in discovering God and discover God in discovering our true self hidden in God.” Henri Nouwen adds: “We become strangers to ourselves the more we act as strangers to God. We become most ourselves when we are most like God. I am hidden in God and I have to find myself in that relationship.”
This rootedness of our inmost being in God enables us to relate with others in terms of WHO we are, only secondarily, by what we do. St. John Paul II said that in our time, we need witnesses from the richness and authenticity of our lives. Loving in this sense is no longer merely doing but becoming the embodiment of love itself. Jesus is first in this regard, the embodiment of the Father‘s love as the Word made flesh. Intimacy with God leads to mission and service. The clearest proof of true discipleship is when one becomes a loving and a caring person.