Father Koch: Simple enough: Love one another

May 3, 2024 at 10:16 a.m.
For the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Father Garry Koch reflects on the commandment Jesus gave to his disciples: Love One Another. Photo from Shutterstock.com
For the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Father Garry Koch reflects on the commandment Jesus gave to his disciples: Love One Another. Photo from Shutterstock.com (Shutterstock/Trenton Monitor)


Gospel reflection for May 5, 2024, Sixth Sunday of Easter

Jesus delivers a lengthy and thorough instruction to the disciples at the Last Supper as recounted in the John’s Gospel. This all happens after the pivotal moment when Judas Iscariot is dismissed by Jesus and the wheels are in motion for the events in the garden later that evening.

Our Gospel passage continues the emphasis Jesus has placed on abiding (remaining) in him as a mark of discipleship. But now he gets to the crux of the matter. This instruction to the disciples builds like a majestic piece of music. Jesus moves them along an ever-developing understanding of his mission, their mission in relationship to him, and the very meaning of discipleship. He tells them that they must obey his commandment. In John’s Gospel Jesus has one commandment: love one another. This becomes the crescendo of the instruction, indeed the underlying message of the entire Gospel. Love one another.

This is not an ordinary love; this is not a love built on attraction, mutual interest, or common friendship. It is a love grounded in Jesus’s love for them.

The disciples abide in Jesus and abide in one another because of the power of the love of God present with and in them.

Jesus has told them that he freely lays down his life for them -- for us -- because the father loves him, he loves the father, and the father and the son love us.

The love of the disciples is manifest as they lay down their lives for their friends. He lays down his life for them out of love, and they are to lay down their lives for their friends in love.

Then Jesus places a new and different emphasis on his relationship with the disciples. No longer are they but master and student, but rather he now calls them his friends. They are friends because he lays down his life for them, and they will lay down their lives for him. But they can only do so as they have love for one another.

Earlier on the same evening the master demonstrated that love -- and his desire to show them that he intended to call them his friends -- as he washed their feet. It was unheard of for a master to wash the feet of a disciple or a servant. Jesus does this as a way of preparing them for what he is about to tell them: that he is laying down his life for them, and that they must do so for one another. While he is not less than are they, and they know this, he serves them. That had to be a remarkably moving and humbling experience for them, so much so that Peter objected until Jesus insisted that he needed to accept Jesus in loving and humble service in order to share in his ministry.

This opens a new series of questions for us. While the disciples were with Jesus throughout his public ministry, they were always his disciples. It is unlikely that they ever called him by name, but routinely called him Rabbi, teacher or master. They lived and traveled together, but, would not have thought of him as a friend in a real personal sense. At the same time, we do not know to what extent they thought of each other as friends. While there were some natural relationships among them: Peter and Andrew are brothers, and their business partners, James and John are also brothers, we are not sure that a bond of friendship formed between all. Like any other group, they would have had their disagreements, along with their moments when they truly enjoyed being in each other’s company. As we read through the lines of the evangelist’s comments, we can see where they were hurt by his betrayal, but also that they always felt him to be an outsider.

Now at this moment in the conversation with Jesus they are forced to look to each other and note that they love each other, that they are friends, and perhaps come to note that soon their lives will be permanently changed and forever intertwined one with another.

They will lay down their lives for each other, but not for each other only, but to carry on the mission of Jesus.

Let us, then, love one another.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.


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Gospel reflection for May 5, 2024, Sixth Sunday of Easter

Jesus delivers a lengthy and thorough instruction to the disciples at the Last Supper as recounted in the John’s Gospel. This all happens after the pivotal moment when Judas Iscariot is dismissed by Jesus and the wheels are in motion for the events in the garden later that evening.

Our Gospel passage continues the emphasis Jesus has placed on abiding (remaining) in him as a mark of discipleship. But now he gets to the crux of the matter. This instruction to the disciples builds like a majestic piece of music. Jesus moves them along an ever-developing understanding of his mission, their mission in relationship to him, and the very meaning of discipleship. He tells them that they must obey his commandment. In John’s Gospel Jesus has one commandment: love one another. This becomes the crescendo of the instruction, indeed the underlying message of the entire Gospel. Love one another.

This is not an ordinary love; this is not a love built on attraction, mutual interest, or common friendship. It is a love grounded in Jesus’s love for them.

The disciples abide in Jesus and abide in one another because of the power of the love of God present with and in them.

Jesus has told them that he freely lays down his life for them -- for us -- because the father loves him, he loves the father, and the father and the son love us.

The love of the disciples is manifest as they lay down their lives for their friends. He lays down his life for them out of love, and they are to lay down their lives for their friends in love.

Then Jesus places a new and different emphasis on his relationship with the disciples. No longer are they but master and student, but rather he now calls them his friends. They are friends because he lays down his life for them, and they will lay down their lives for him. But they can only do so as they have love for one another.

Earlier on the same evening the master demonstrated that love -- and his desire to show them that he intended to call them his friends -- as he washed their feet. It was unheard of for a master to wash the feet of a disciple or a servant. Jesus does this as a way of preparing them for what he is about to tell them: that he is laying down his life for them, and that they must do so for one another. While he is not less than are they, and they know this, he serves them. That had to be a remarkably moving and humbling experience for them, so much so that Peter objected until Jesus insisted that he needed to accept Jesus in loving and humble service in order to share in his ministry.

This opens a new series of questions for us. While the disciples were with Jesus throughout his public ministry, they were always his disciples. It is unlikely that they ever called him by name, but routinely called him Rabbi, teacher or master. They lived and traveled together, but, would not have thought of him as a friend in a real personal sense. At the same time, we do not know to what extent they thought of each other as friends. While there were some natural relationships among them: Peter and Andrew are brothers, and their business partners, James and John are also brothers, we are not sure that a bond of friendship formed between all. Like any other group, they would have had their disagreements, along with their moments when they truly enjoyed being in each other’s company. As we read through the lines of the evangelist’s comments, we can see where they were hurt by his betrayal, but also that they always felt him to be an outsider.

Now at this moment in the conversation with Jesus they are forced to look to each other and note that they love each other, that they are friends, and perhaps come to note that soon their lives will be permanently changed and forever intertwined one with another.

They will lay down their lives for each other, but not for each other only, but to carry on the mission of Jesus.

Let us, then, love one another.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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