Meditation on This Week's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, May 2, 2010:
First Reading: Acts 11:1-18
Psalm: Psalm 148
Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-6
Gospel: John 13:31-35
When I was a child, I wished that my family was part of a more rigorous religion. I wanted to go to Confession every week. I wanted to do more penance than just saying I was sorry. I thought it would be neat to be a kosher Jew, with lots of laws to keep. The Lutheran concept of grace didn't thrill me very much. It just seemed so easy.
In today's Gospel, we get our marching orders: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (verses 34-35). When I was a child, I would have rolled my eyes and asked for a harder assignment.
Now that I am older, I think that loving each other is plenty hard enough. As a grown up, I think that following dietary laws would be an easier command. I think of all the other things Jesus could have required of us, and some part of me wishes for one of those.
Why is it so hard to love each other? Why are we so unlike Thomas, so unable to thrust our hands into each other's wounds? We don't want to get involved. We don't know what to say. We don't know how to act. So, we take the easier route and lose ourselves in our busy routines. We get so frantic with our schedules that we don't have time for ourselves, much less each other, much less God.
But Jesus tells us firmly that we are to love each other. He doesn't tell us how, but he shows us. This Gospel lesson comes after the washing of the disciples' feet and a leisurely dinner.
If we don't know how to love each other, we might start by sharing meals together. We have to eat, no matter how fast-paced our lives. Why not take some time to slow down as we nourish ourselves? Why not take some time to nourish ourselves in other ways? By sharing meals, we open up the door to love.
We might engage in other behaviors that open our hearts to love. We might try not saying negative things about each other. It's so easy to gossip. It's so easy to make ourselves feel good by pointing out the faults of others. But why do that? Why not focus on the good of our fellow travelers with us on our journeys?
Refusing to bash others verbally could be our modern equivalent of foot washing. We could show our care not by lavishing attention on physical bodies, but by lavishing our attention on the good qualities of others.
We live in a culture that prefers to argue, to fight, to tear down. Focusing on the good qualities of others seems as intimate in our current climate as foot washing must have seemed in the time of Jesus.
Of course, to focus on those good qualities, we have to get to know each other well enough to know what those good qualities are. Back to the dinner table!
I've only focused on two ways of loving each other; the ways to love are infinite. Choose the one that calls to you and decide that this will be your ministry. Know that you will have to gently refocus your efforts time and time again, as you move along. Fortify your efforts by asking God to help you, so that you can glorify God, so that everyone will know the God you serve by the efforts you make to serve others.