John 13:31-33a, 34-35
by Fr. Jerry J. Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Judas had left them, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is
glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in
himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you
only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one
another. 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
“I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).
The magnificence of God’s good creation is enigmatic. The first chapter of the Book of Genesis recounts God’s mighty acts of creation – from the light and the heavens to the earth and all of the creatures in the sea and on the earth. God views all of His creative handiwork and in litany-like fashion, the sacred writer reveals that “God saw that it was good.” God does not create useless junk. Yet for all its beauty and magnificence, all of creation apparently is – one way or another – “wasted” in time.
Still, we cannot but rejoice in creation. Psalm 104 provides a wonderful remedy to a wary soul. The psalm begins with “Praise the Lord, my soul” and then proceeds to describe the reasons for joy by enumerating God’s creative handiworks. “The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent… .” Even inanimate creation comes alive in the melody of the psalm: “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants” and “at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them.”
The psalmist continues with the divine gifts that lead to man’s nourishment: “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth: wine and gladdens human hears, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.” As the psalm moves to conclusion, we are reminded of the absolute dependence of creation on the Creator (the words have become the basis of a familiar devotional prayer to the Holy Spirit): “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
But nature also seems to waste its beauty. From the depths of the sea to the expanse of wilderness only a small fraction of it is ever viewed or appreciated by man. One need not seek the wilderness to behold the beauty of nature and to observe the inherent “waste.” Inching through the details of a backyard yields something similar: the construct of a blade of grass or a dandelion or the lighting of a blue jay on a tree branch all have details that even a master artist can only hope to simulate.
What does all this “waste” reveal about the nature of God’s love?
In the Book of Exodus, we hear of the Lord feeding the sojourners with manna, the mysterious “bread from heaven.” The Israelites were instructed to “gather as much as they (needed)” and, as a result, “the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” Further, Moses instructed them not to hoard and when some of them kept part of their gatherings until morning, it was wasted – “full of maggots and began to smell.” God gives in abundance to sustain us, but He is willing to spoil His gifts when we fail to trust in His continuing generosity.
Christ provides us a similar lesson in the parable of the rich fool. The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. In an effort to “take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” he plans an early retirement by building bigger barns to store the surplus grain. He trusts in himself, not in God’s continuing generosity. Instead of recognizing his abundance as God-given, he fails to take the opportunity to be generous himself. The grand finale of the parable should be sobering to anyone too fixated on IRAs or other retirement plans and elaborate retirement schemes: “But God said to him, ‘You fool This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Lk 12:20-21).
The lessons should be clear. God desires that we trust in His loving providence. Reliance on God’s gifts is a day-to-day and a moment-by-moment virtue. As Christ advises after the parable of the rich fool, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Lk 12:22).
But we should also respond in kind to His generosity. From natural creation to Exodus to the parables of Christ, we see how God “wastes” His love on us in order to teach us not only to trust Him, but to imitate Him by “wasting” our love on others without counting the cost. Our lives and all of creation are made for generous and “wasteful” – perhaps more accurately, sacrificial – giving of self in imitation of Christ. “For greater love than this no man has than to give up his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). That is precisely the wasteful kind of love Christ means when he says, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
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