Today’s first reading from John feels like a late Christmas gift for anyone looking for the Cliff Notes version to the Christian life – the way we know that we are in union with Jesus is to walk just as he walked; we must keep his commandments. John tells us that this is an old commandment, one we should apparently be familiar with. Pretty intuitive, I think. Straight forward, even. If you want to be a follower of Jesus, just do what he said.
Just when we think we’re off the hook, John lays down a new commandment: Love each other. Well shoot.
Anyone who’s sat across the table at a holiday celebration from someone they haven’t spoken to in a year knows that this piece is a little more of a challenge. I think over the fractured relationships in my own life and know that this part is not as easy as it seems; it’s where the hard work comes in.
Years ago, Pope Benedict wrote that loving one another means that we’ll want what’s good for each other and then do the work to secure what’s good for each other. In our ministry at Catholic Charities, we try to manifest this every day. Loving one another is a pillar of who we are corporately, and how we seek to show up in the communities that we serve. We are the group that does the serious business of knowing our neighbors, desiring their good, and getting to work securing it.
So today we receive two commandments – one old, one new, neither that unfamiliar, both deceptively difficult.
Keep his commandments, love each other.
Let’s get to work.
Jay Brown is the CEO of Commonwealth Catholic Charities serving communities across the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.