One can consider this Sunday’s Gospel (John 13: 31-33A, 34-35) as the core of Christ’s last will and testament: “. . . Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
Let’s reflect on love from three perspectives: love as mission, love as action, and love as legacy which synthesizes mission and action.
Christ clearly frames love as a mission with a commandment to love one another. It is also explicit as a commission when he tells Peter, after the latter’s triple confession of love for Christ, that he must feed, tend to and care for the flock. (John 21: 15-19)
This leads us to the second point. Ignatius of Loyola says that love is best expressed in deeds and action. He frames it within his famous three graces: to see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly.
To see or to know Christ leads to a response to love him more dearly. This is best expressed in following Christ, to be one with him, and to share in his life and mission to love and to serve his Father and all that the Father has entrusted to him.
Without a doubt, to follow Christ is the action that flows from loving him. As we were told in the seminary, as priests, we are to become “alter Christus” in the world, another Christ. I believe this is a calling for all Christians, and not exclusive to the clergy.
Last week, one of my reflections in Mass was the need to represent the story of Christ in the present time and context. The narrative is what defines what people believe in, what they will follow and what they will become. The story also determines who becomes the leader.
The success of many leaders is in great part due to their ability to define the narrative that will resonate with people. When Barack Obama first ran as as United States president, he defined the narrative with, “Change we can believe in,” and added his slogan, “Yes, we can.” It aligned with his own story.
President Duterte framed the narrative in a similar vein, “Change is coming,” and highlighted the peace and order situation. In some surveys, it was the no. 7 concern of Filipinos (jobs being no. 1) in the 2016 elections, which he added to the narrative to align it more to his story.
In the 2019 local elections, Isko Moreno and Vico Sotto used the power of the narrative to win over extremely formidable incumbents. The narratives aligned with their individual stories.
Howard Gardner brilliantly pointed out that a great leader has a great story to tell, and he or she gains followers because in the story, others see or discover their own story. The leader’s story inspires and empowers people.
Retelling the story
This is why we need to re-tell the story of Christ. In his own words, “As the Father has loved me, so I loved you.” (John 15: 9) “Love one another as I have loved you.”
This is his legacy. In the history of the etymology of “legacy,” the 14th century usage referred to is a “body of persons on a mission.”
This is love as legacy. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This is our mission as followers of Christ, as Christians. It is to build a community rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. It is to be identified as his disciples, his followers by our love for one another. As Christ’s legacy, we are the community of persons on a mission to “tell the world of his love.”
This is the narrative that we need to retell. Integral to the narrative of our redemption are not just the Cross and Resurrection, but also the establishing of the Kingdom of the Father, the Kingdom of God in our midst—the community that loves one another.
Love as mission and love as action must bear fruit in the legacy of Christ, the men and women who are on mission. The community can truly be seen and believed in as the Kingdom of God—a kingdom of justice, peace, equality, compassion and love.
It is the caring community which Chris Lowney describes as one marked by respect, where there is greater love than fear, and which gives its members the opportunities to achieve their full human potential.
Love as mission, love as action, love as legacy—that’s when we become a community that loves all its members into excellence, inspired and empowered.
Are we near or far from the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of love? —CONTRIBUTED