5th point of the Spirituality of Communion
Making the Church the home and school of communion
“This is my commandment:
love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:12-13)
The kind of love that Jesus really wants of us is reciprocal love. It is a love that is mutual; it is a love that not only goes out but also comes back. Jesus told us, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). Mutual love then is an essential element of a spirituality of communion.
Jesus even commanded us to love one another, “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (JN 15:12). Earlier Jesus had told us, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mk 12:31), but during the Last Supper Jesus goes far beyond that by telling us our love should be mutual and that the measure of our love for one another should be the way he loved us: “as I have loved you.”
The kind of love that Jesus really wants of us is reciprocal love. It is a love that is mutual; it is a love that not only goes out but also comes back. Jesus told us,
“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
Mutual love then is an essential element of a spirituality of communion. Jesus even commanded us to love one another,
“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (JN 15:12).
Earlier Jesus had told us,
“Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mk 12:31),
but during the Last Supper Jesus goes far beyond that by telling us our love should be mutual and that the measure of our love for one another should be the way he loved us:
“as I have loved you”
To love as Jesus has loved us is very demanding, since Jesus loved to the point of laying down his life for us, even to the point of feeling abandoned by his Father.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
“The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1Jn 3:16).
What does the Scripture say?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong doing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:4-8).
“Beloved, if God loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:11).
A Key Experience:
Mutual love to the point of being always ready to die for one another
The discovery of what it means to put into practice this point of the spirituality of communion in the words of Chiara Lubich
We ask ourselves, “Is there anything Jesus desires us to do that is especially pleasing to him, so that if we had to appear before him immediately, he would be pleased with us?” Again the Gospel gave us the answer: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (Jn 15:12) … We knew that Jesus had loved us to the point of dying for us; therefore, we had to be ready to die for one another … We determined to base our lives on constant mutual love, whatever direction our lives might take … Before going to the Mass or receive communion, we would ask ourselves, “Are we ready to die for one another?” … Love had to come before anything else: before going to school, before going to work, before going to sleep at night.
Going to God together
Jesus demands that our love be communal, not only a personal love for God, not only a personal love for neighbour. For our love cannot reach its fullness, cannot attain its completion, until it becomes reciprocal.
Jesus does not say that it is sufficient simply to love one’s neighbour. Rather he says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He wants reciprocal love to be a fundamental aspect of our Christian life. And this is also part of the mystery of going to God together. We cannot go to God alone. Unless our love is reciprocal, it is not that perfect Christian love that God is asking of us.
But our mentality is so rooted in the thought of going personally and alone to God, and of seeing others simply as a means of our sanctification, that we find it difficult to rid ourselves completely of our old way of thinking.
Fr. Pasquale Foresi
“I give you a new commandment: love one another” (Jn 13:34). We live these words as well as we could. They seem to summarize the Gospel completely. And they bring us the best we could ever hope for: the fullness of the Church’s life, the life of the mystical body, where the members share in Jesus’ life to the point of being another Jesus.
God focused our attention on the new commandment, and now we realize that it is the very heart of Christianity.
For many centuries the new commandment was not entirely understood. Of course, we spoke about loving God and our neighbour, but love towards our neighbours became like a “proof” that we truly loved God. However, that wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. For him, in fact, it’s not enough that we love others, but we must love one another. That one little word “as” is very important. Jesus doesn’t leave us to decide the measure of love; he himself gave the measure to us. Before being nailed to the cross, he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” So then our mutual love is a love with no limits. You cannot say, “That’s it, I’ve reached the limit of loving, I can’t love anymore,” because Jesus loved up to the point of death. This is what Jesus asks of us, because living in this way, we can understand more about God.
Giuseppe M. Zanghi
If Jesus asks above all for mutual love it is because it is the first and fundamental value for human coexistence, which cannot but be a reflection of the life of the Trinity, its ultimate model.
Fr. Silvano Cola
“Nothing in the world renders more praise to God … than the humble and fraternal exchange of spiritual gifts … All of us who have received graces from heaven should make every effort to share with others the divine gifts we have received, especially the gifts that can help others along the way of perfection.”
St. Laurence Giustiniani
For Sharing and discussions:
– What is meant by “mutual love,” by “reciprocal love”?
– What did Jesus mean when he commanded us to love “as he has loved us”?
– What have been our experiences of being loved by others?
– Is the awareness of “mutual love” something new to you?
– Daily examination of conscience: Did I always respond to love with love?
My discovery of mutual love
Even though I am a Catholic priest, and had the words “Love one another as I have loved you” on my ordination card, it was only during a summer convention on the spirituality of communion that I discovered “mutual love” as something completely new!
My discovery came during a presentation on the new commandment. The presenter said: “The kind of love that Jesus really wants is reciprocal love. Jesus commanded us to have mutual love, a love that goes in both directions.” The part about love being reciprocal is what struck me as completely new. I felt that I have never heard it before.
I suddenly realized that all my life I had only been hearing half of Jesus, commandment of mutual love. I had only heard it in an “individual” way, that I should love my neighbour. I had not heard it in a communal way, that is, that we should love one another. It takes a community of two or more to live the new commandment; one person alone is not able to live mutual love.
I felt extremely embarrassed and ashamed that I had never noticed that the love that Jesus really wants is mutual love … reciprocal love. I asked myself, “How is it possible?” I went to a Catholic grade school … I went to a Catholic high school … I spent five years in a collage seminary … I studied theology for four years … I have been preaching for over ten years – and yet the reciprocal part seems completely new to me!
Looking back I now realize that in my discovery of mutual love, the Holy Spirit was giving me a strong awareness of the Church as communion. In other words, the Holy Spirit made me realize that Jesus really wants us – even commands us – to have reciprocal love and communion.
Fr. T. E.
The obstacle course
My son was ill for an entire week of school. As he gradually felt better, he was getting bored.
I went into the game room and found it a mess! My first instinct was to loudly insist that everything be put back in order. However, the Gospel message, “increase in love for one another” (cf. 1 Thess. 3:12) echoed in my heart. I heard myself asking what all of this “arrangement” was about. My son was so happy to explain the (very creative!) obstacle course. He had utilized blankets, furniture, belts, stability balls, raisins, tinker-toys, etc. We took turns timing each other to see how fast we each could complete the course. We cheered for every result, as if it were the world record. If it weren’t for the Gospel message, I would have missed this opportunity with my son.
A song in my heart
Each morning I have the opportunity to say my morning prayers on my school bus, since I am one of the first people to get on. This helps me to start the day right. A few minutes later, my friend boards the bus and sits with me. She always seems to be depressed in the morning and never wears a smile.
So each morning, out of love for her I am extra cheerful and try to make her smile. Sometimes I get discouraged because of constantly having to listen to her complaints but I remind myself that I must give her my selfless love, forget about myself, and be willing to listen to her out of love. Someday I hope I can tell her about the joy that I have found when I am loving.
Once, my friend said she appreciated my listening to her, and we exchanged gifts for Christmas. When I opened mine, I found it was ornamental statue with the engraved words, “There is a song in my heart.” My friend said to me, “Margaret, when I saw this in the store I knew it was meant for you because every morning when I get on the bus it seems that there is a song in your heart.” I was very happy because then I knew my love was real.
The rumours weren’t true
There is a girl in my class at school who is not very popular. Most of the girls like to make fun of her and to spread rumours about her. At first, I stayed away from her, but then I realized that if I rejected this girl, I would also be rejecting Jesus, so I tried very hard to love her. Now we are good friends and I also found out that none of the rumours about her are true.
More than hugs and comfort
I am the second of five children. The other day was especially hard. We had just moved and it was a lot of work. Then, during the night, a hose popped off our washer while it was running and the water went all over a thick carpet. My mother’s arthritis was acting up in her wrist again, she had a terrible toothache and she hadn’t been getting much sleep. And it was time for lunch. She was really frustrated!
Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 19:19). So I thought, “How can I love my mom? Now, when things are going wrong, she needs the most love. But I must love her in the right way. I can’t just talk to her about it. I know she doesn’t want hugs of comfort.” I asked God to help me know what to do, and I decided. “This time the way to do it is to live it!”
So right away, I started to help my mother. I cleared the table, rinsed and stacked the dirty dishes, washed the lettuce, and made a salad. I poured applesauce into little cups, making sure that they all had just the same amount. Then I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top.
When my brothers and sisters came in for lunch, they were all very surprised. They told mother, “You seem like you’re a lot happier than you were.” And to my surprise, she told them, “Well, thank your sister! She stayed here with me, she didn’t say anything, she just kept doing all she could to help. She showed me an example of how I should act when I am frustrated.”
Then we had a wonderful lunch together, and I could tell that my mother was going out of her way to love the others, too. Love is contagious!
What can I do?
Try to put into practice what you have learned today. Then at the beginning of the next group meeting, share your Gospel experiences with the others – one or two episodes when you experienced that your effort of loving your neighbour became reciprocal – as a gift.