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Thursday 9 April 2020: Maundy Thursday

Love one another

1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

By John Estorninho

Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Westminster and Head of Music in a preparatory school

Context: a middle-class parish made up mostly of professionals and academics, many of whom have small children, although this was prepared for an adult only congregation

Aim: to examine the application of love

Love is All you Need

‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ But what is this love for one another that Jesus is asking of us? He wants us to love one another; great! But surely not EVERYONE. Surely not that person in the office who drives me nuts. Turn on the news or take a walk outside the Houses of Parliament and you might be forgiven for claiming exemptions for the universal love that Jesus has asked of us. But no! Those, too we must love.

Remember that God is love. It’s important to ponder those three words: God is love.

God Only Knows

But what is love? According to Dolly Parton, ‘Love is like a Butterfly’ – and before you get any ideas about being able to flit from flower to flower, I’m here to tell you that that’s not what she means!; to Wet, Wet, Wet, ‘Love is all Around’ – yes, but that doesn’t tell us anything really; the Beatles tell us that ‘Money can’t buy [us] Love’ – well, that’s true but it doesn’t bring us any closer to what love is. Remember that God is Love? We hear so much about love in films and songs that the word ‘Love’ has become almost meaningless. How often have we heard the word ‘Love’ refer to food, or a game, or a sitcom? If that is all that love is, that means that it needn’t be reciprocated. In fact, we don’t expect love to be reciprocated. How can food, a tennis match or a sitcom return our feelings?

When a Man Loves a Woman

St Thomas Aquinas tells us that love is willing the good of the other. Let’s unpack that before moving on. We all know that we love our parents, siblings, family, friends and spouses differently. It is all love, but it is different in each case. The one thing that remains the same is that we will the good of the other. Sometimes, it will be difficult, but as long as we will the good of the other, we will be acting out of love. As parents, we teach our children right from wrong; it would be fool hardy to let our children discover the ways of the world without teaching them the pitfalls. We wouldn’t let a child loose in the street without first teaching them how to cross the road, for instance. This may not seem like love, but it is precisely love (willing their good), that drives us to teach your children.

How Deep is Your Love

Love is hard work; just look at what St Paul tells us about love: he says, ‘Love is patient.’ Any parent who has or has had teenage children will know all about patience! Paul says so much more but there is much meat on these bones. Love demands a lot of patience and if you don’t believe me ask my wife.

St Augustine tells us that ‘Love rejuvenates [us]’, it makes us feel young again. It is division that weakens and ages us. Division saps our energy; love never tires of giving.

To Christians, God is omnipotent, that is to say all powerful or almighty. But remember that God is Love – remember that? What is the implication of these two statements? If God is love and God is all powerful, it must tell us that love is all powerful. It can overcome anything or put another way; nothing can overpower love. I’m not here talking about the sentimental love, the romantic love that we see in movies. We’re not robots and despite what dating apps tell us there are no two people who will agree on everything. You can’t have love just by swiping left. Is love hard work? Can we love Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin? Yes! By willing their good; by praying for them. On our own we can’t hope to influence them but with the power of prayer. Put it this way, ‘With God nothing is impossible.’

We now approach the altar of sacrifice, where heaven open to us. Where the ‘Once for all sacrifice’ is recalled not as a fond memory but in reality. This is the place (in real time) where the Last Supper took place. When St Paul quotes Christ saying ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ he is using the Jewish understanding of anamnesis, when, as in Passover celebrations, the past is made present.

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