“My children…love another.” (John 13:33a, 34)
Last Friday, my family gathered to celebrate my great aunt’s 90th birthday. She is the oldest remaining sibling of my departed grandmother’s brothers and sisters. What is remarkable is that she has 2 great, great grandchildren. During the family gathering as I was holding my tiny little newborn cousin in my arms, I was watching my nephews interact with their cousins. The baby’s older brother who is 16 months old walked up to my youngest nephew and with no rhyme or reason just simply gave him a big hug. Obviously, that elicited lots of “aaawwwws” from everyone, but I found it remarkable because at that young age, it is literally love unfiltered. The type of love Jesus is calling us to in today’s gospel. I have seen this in my nephews when I go home for a visit. My sister’s oldest son, all of 4 years old, will walk up and hug my brother’s son, whenever they get together. It doesn’t matter what mood they are in or whether they have a “red” day or a “green” day, the two cousins are overjoyed at seeing each other and simply embrace. (Side note: I feel I must explain what “red” days and “green” days are for those who don’t have little children going to school. Today teachers codify students’ behavior using the same color system that our society uses to control traffic at intersections. If a child behaves well in school, in other words, do what they are supposed to do, they are on green. If they act so-so, they are on yellow, and if they behave in a manner that would’ve gotten us a whoopin when we were kids, they are on “red.” I’ll come back to this later.) Back to child-like love: the manner in which children show their love, without judgment or prejudice or ulterior motives or agendas is how Jesus calls us to love another.
We need to recapture that innocence and start seeing our neighbor as Jesus sees us. Jesus sees past our sins and failings and simply loves us because we are his children. He is merciful towards all. He doesn’t look down on us and categorizes his children as “red children” and “green children.” We do that, not him. We’re the ones who should know when we have offended the Lord and not loved others as we should. That’s what we have confession for: we walk in on red, and walk out on green (hey! Just like the lights above the confessional!) If we learn to love one another as little children love their siblings, cousins, and parents, then we start beholding the new creation that St. John describes in the book of Revelation in today’s second reading. “Behold, I make all things new,” the Lord tells us. (Rev 21:5a). That newness is born out of the love that we have for one another. Christ is calling us to help him transform the world one heart at a time with three very simple words that even a child can understand: “Love one another.”