Commentary on the Gospel of

Kyle Lierk - Creighton University's Campus Ministry

As a newly minted driver at the age of 16, I found every excuse possible to get behind the wheel of a car. It was an experience of newfound freedom! I offered to go get groceries for my mom, deliver prescriptions for my dad’s pharmacy, even watch my sister and brother without being asked--all tasks that, up until I had my driver’s license, I did a bit more begrudgingly (and hardly ever volunteered!). Hence, one day I was babysitting my kid brother and took him on a drive with me. It was a beautiful, warm summer day. We had the windows of the car rolled down and the music turned up. We were both wearing baseball caps and sunglasses. Freedom! At one point I thoughtlessly turned my hat around so the bill was facing backward. Within seconds, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a five year old-sized baseball cap turn around. Even at 16, I had the sobering thought, “Oh boy, this kid is watching and mimicking my every move!”

“Love one another as I love you,” Jesus says to his friends in today’s Gospel from John. Jesus is not just asking those closest to him to love in some generic, one-size-fits-all, Hallmark card-kind-of-way. Jesus is asking them to love in the way he has loved. Jesus is asking his disciples, and us, to imitate him. The only way we can do that, like my brother did with me, is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

When we watch Jesus love, what do we see? I see love that is regenerative as he brings sight back to the blind, movement back to the paralyzed, and life back to the dead. I see love that is radical as he breaks bread with those deemed “sinners,” meets with the woman at the well in the middle of the day, and invites a child into the midst of adults as a model for how to enter the Kingdom of God. I see love that is restorative as he makes a way for those cast out to come back into right relationship with the community. This is not a warm and fuzzy kind of love. This is regenerative, restorative, radical love. It’s gritty. That’s the kind of love Jesus is asking us to imitate.

The philosopher, artist, and poet Kahlil Gibran who was born into a Maronite Catholic family in Lebanon described God’s kind of love this way in The Prophet:

“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep…
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire
That you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.”

Each time we celebrate the Mass, we hear the words of consecration, “Do this in memory of me.” We live out the Last Supper again and again so that we can make real and present our friend Jesus. He gave us this model. As we imitate this sacred meal (keeping in mind that the Johannine community chose to highlight the foot washing wherein Jesus also uttered the words “as I have done for you, you should also do”), we are re-member-ing, making the body and action of Jesus live again. Our imitation of the love Jesus showed for his friends just before his crucifixion is a reminder to us of how to love as Jesus loved.

The theologian Sandra Schneiders writes this about Jesus modeling love at the foot washing in her work Written that You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel:

Jesus acted to abolish the inequality between them, deliberately reversing their 
social positions and roles. To wash another’s feet was something that even 
slaves could not be required to do, but which disciples might do out of reverence 
for their master. But any act of service is permissible and freeing among friends. 
By washing his disciples’ feet Jesus overcame by love the inequality that existed 
by nature between himself and those whom he had chosen as friends. He 
established an intimacy with them that superseded his least one 
meaning of the foot washing for contemporary disciples…[is] as a participation in 
Jesus’ work of transforming the sinful structures of domination operative in 
human society according to the model of friendship expressing itself in joyful 
mutual service unto death.

As we continue cruising through the Easter season with wind in our hair and music in our ears, let us keep our eyes on Jesus as he navigates us through life. May our response to his command to “love one another” find ways to be regenerative, restorative, and radical through the act of friendship.


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