This homily is titled, “Bring on the New!” //
Do you like things that are new? Of course you do. We Americans love new things!
In the Gospel today Jesus gives us a new commandment. It is not complicated. It is not complex. It is not difficult to understand, not difficult to comprehend, though it often can be difficult to put into practice. It is this; “Love one another.” Three simple words. But they pack a whallop!
Then Jesus comments, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So, if you wish to be a disciple of Jesus, then what you have to do is love. Love, love, love, love, love, love, love. That’s all.
Simple, but difficult. Because the kind of love that Jesus is talking about is NOT an emotion, not a feeling, not a sentiment. The kind of love that Jesus is talking about is the kind of love He practiced. And His love was not gushy, not sentimental, not gooey. His love is other directed. His love is for the other. His love pushes through the embarrassment and the inconvenience and the self-consciousness, and focusses on the other. Jesus’ love is mature and strong and other-directed. His love is constant. His love shares. His love looks out for the other. His love is tough and strong and real. And that is how we are to love. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Such love does not come easily. It takes work. Just like gaining proficiency in a sport takes work, and learning calculus or another language takes work, or building a business takes work, or just about any significant accomplishment takes work, so loving one another is work.
This is why in our first reading we heard: “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. What kind of encouragement is that? Does it make you want to sign up right away? Wow, this is going to be difficult, with many hardships! I can hardly wait!
Well, it is honest. It is truthful. Our nature is lazy and self-centered and stingy. Loving one another is fine when it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. But loving one another goes against the grain when it requires work, and sacrifice, and persistent commitment. Yes, it IS necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom ain’t for sissies.
It is hard. But it is worth it. And you and I, all of us here, are invited into this wonderful Kingdom. How do we get there? The Gospel today tells us. Love one another.
That is something all of us can do. If you are rich or poor; if you are man or woman; if you are black or white or brown or green; if you are straight or gay or confused; if you are native-born or immigrant; if you are Republican or Democrat or Independent; if you are Longhorn or Aggie; if you are brilliant or very, very simple; it does not matter. You can keep this commandment of Jesus to love. Love one another.
Jesus tells us this is a new commandment. It is not new in the sense of never being heard before. Rather, it is new instead in terms of its radical centrality, its import, its place as the essence of Jesus’ teaching. Love one another.
And this new commandment, simple yet profound, begins to usher in God’s Kingdom here on earth, now in this time. This commandment - in its effect and centrality - is new.
We are given a vision of that newness, that fresh start this new commandment ushers in in the second reading today from the Book of Revelations:
"Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain,
for the old order has passed away.”
The One who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new.”
And that newness is the commandment to love one another. AMEN.