A new way of loving

Published May 15, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP


Fr. Rolando V. dela Rosa, O.P.

In the past, whenever I read today’s gospel reading, I used to focus on these words: “I give you a new commandment, love one another” (John 13:34). Today, I put more emphasis on the succeeding words: “As I have loved you.”

These words indicate HOW we should love others. Jesus knows that it is natural for us to love, but in doing so, we can be too calculating, overly cautious or tentative, always on the lookout for an advantage, and careful not to be taken advantage of.

So, He asks us to love as He has loved us. And how did He love us? Jesus did not wait for us to be holy and perfect before loving us. As St. Paul writes, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“As I have loved you” also tells us WHY we must love others. We love them, not because they are lovable or deserving of our love, but simply because Jesus loved us first. This is perhaps why Jesus called his commandment of love as NEW. Love of neighbor ceases to be an obligation; it is an act of gratitude to God. If loving is an act of thanksgiving, we experience real joy.

In one of his recent encyclicals, Pope Francis writes that the problem with our world is that technology and consumerism have multiplied occasions of pleasure, but not real joy. This problem results in endless complaints about our present situation.

Today, many people feel miserable because their life is punctuated by seemingly endless problems, difficulties, failed expectations, and broken dreams. They look at life as a curse than a blessing.
But some people continue to enjoy life despite their own share of sufferings and trials. They are living proofs that joy is not something that happens to us. We make it happen by being thankful for every situation we find ourselves in. St. Paul writes: “Give thanks to the Lord in every circumstance in your life” (Thessalonians 5:16-18). In another letter he writes: “Rejoice always! I say it again, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).
Gratitude may not change our situation, but it can change us, by giving us a new way of looking at things. Joy depends on how we decide to look at events or occurrences. We see things, not as they are, but AS WE ARE. You might complain about why the world is dark. Perhaps, you are wearing sunglasses. You might think your future is bleak and hopeless. Maybe, you are looking in the wrong direction

Harold Kushner narrates in his book “How good do we have to be?” his visit to a man who is dying of AIDS in a hospital. He asked the patient if he thought that his disease was God’s punishment for his sins. The man replied: “No, just the opposite. In the past, it was hard for me to believe that God loved me. But now, I realize that what I found difficult to believe is really true. No matter how much I have messed up my life, God hasn’t given up on me. He loves me even when I find it difficult to love myself. I feel strong just knowing that. I am truly grateful.”

Gratitude is a source of strength and joy. If we are grateful for the fact that God loved us first and He would never abandon us, it would not be difficult to love others, even those whom we think do not deserve it.