A reflection by Paige Souter for the Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 14.21-27; Revelations 21.1-5; John 13.31-35
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” John 13.34.
What does it mean to love one another? There are different styles and types of love. The Ancient Greeks used four terms to describe different types of love: eros (passionate), phileo (affectionate), storge (family bond and commitment), agape (unconditional).
Jesus showed love through acts of healing, feeding the hungry, teaching, showing mercy and compassion. In other words, for Jesus, love included living and acting in solidarity with people who were on the fringes of society. It is a love grounded in acts of compassion and justice. Jesus best describes the relationship between love and justice when he calls us to serve the “least of these.”
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25.35-36).
Jesus’ commandment rings loudly for us, in a world broken and wounded by greed and individualism, violence and war, poverty and discrimination. One of the most urgent injustices confronting us today is climate change and its disproportionate effect on vulnerable peoples around the world. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls us to enact love in “gestures of mutual care.” He notes that by building a culture of care (Laudatio Si’, #231), we can address environmental degradation and create a new social fabric (Laudatio Si’, #232) that addresses the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. To love today means “combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time, protecting nature.” (Laudato Si’, #139)
During this Easter Season, let us take some time to reflect on how well we are living up to Jesus’ commandment to love one another. Does my life reflect love for the planet? Am I living in solidarity with people who are marginalized and vulnerable? Am I able to love as Jesus loved?
Paige Souter was the Education Program Coordinator for the Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation Office. The program provided workshops, retreats, devotionals, and mini-missions for parishes and schools, and for other organizations. It was an opportunity to learn about Laudato Si, Catholic Social Teaching, ecological justice, climate change, and an option for the poor in an interactive and faith-filled format.