Saint Josemaria
Quotations from Saint Josemaria

The New Commandment

Tags: Charity, Understanding, Service
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end (Jn 13:1).

The reader of this verse from Saint John’s Gospel is brought to understand that a great event is about to take place. The introduction, full of tender affection, is similar to that which we find in Saint Luke: I have earnestly desired, says our Lord, to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
Christ is Passing By, 83

Now it is the Last Supper. Christ has prepared everything to bid farewell to his disciples, while they, for the umpteenth time, have become embroiled in an argument about which one of the chosen group is to be considered the greatest. Jesus then rising from supper, laid his garments aside, took a towel and put it about him. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of his disciples, wiping them with the towel that girded him (Jn 13:4-5).

Once again he preaches by example, by his deeds. In the presence of the disciples, who are arguing out of pride and vanity, Jesus bows down and gladly carries out the task of a servant. Afterwards, when he returns to the table, he explains to them: Do you understand what it is I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you are right; it is what I am. Why then, if I have washed your feet, I who am the Master and the Lord, you in your turn ought to wash each other’s feet. (Jn 13:12-14). This tactfulness of Our Lord moves me deeply. He does not say: If I do this, how much more ought you to. He puts himself at their level, and he lovingly chides those men for their lack of generosity.

As he did with the first twelve, so also, with us, our Lord can and does whisper in our ear, time and again, exemplum dedi vobis (Jn 13:15), I have given you an example of humility. I have become a slave, so that you too may learn to serve all men with a meek and humble heart.
Friends of God, 103

The time of his Passion is drawing close and he is surrounded by those he loves. The fire in the Heart of Christ bursts into flame in a way no words can express and he confides in them, I give you a new commandment that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Lord, why do you call it a new commandment? As we have just heard, it was already laid down in the Old Testament that we should love our neighbor. You will remember also that, when Jesus had scarcely begun his public life, he broadened the scope of this law with divine generosity: You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute and slander you (Mt 5:43-44).

But, Lord, please allow us to insist. Why do you still call this precept new? That night, just a few hours before offering yourself in sacrifice on the Cross, during your intimate conversation with the men who – in spite of being weak and wretched, like ourselves – accompanied you to Jerusalem, you revealed to us the standard for our charity, one we could never have suspected: as I have loved you. How well the apostles must have understood you, having witnessed for themselves your unbounded love. The Master’s message and example are clear and precise. He confirmed his teaching with deeds.

... Our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate and took on our nature to reveal himself to mankind as the model of all virtues, Learn from me, he says to us, for I am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29).

Later, when he explains to the Apostles the mark by which they will be known as Christians, he does not say, Because you are humble. He is purity most sublime, the immaculate Lamb. Nothing could stain his perfect, unspotted holiness. Yet he does not say, You will be known as my disciples because you are chaste and pure.

He passed through this world completely detached from earthly goods. Though he is the Creator and Lord of the whole universe, he did not even have a place to lay his head. Nevertheless he does not say, They will know that you are mine because you are not attached to wealth. Before setting out to preach the Gospel he spent forty days and forty nights in the desert keeping a strict fast. But, once again, he does not tell his disciples, Men will recognize you as God’s servants because you are not gluttons or drunkards.

No, the distinguishing mark of the apostles and of true Christians in every age is, as we have heard: By this, precisely by this, shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Friends of God, 222-223


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