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Lenten and Easter Reflection

For many of our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ, a simple confession of faith with one’s lips is all that is necessary to be saved once and for all.  I have heard many denounce the works of Catholics as no more than a futile attempt to earn salvation.  Some common and typical responses I hear are, “Jesus did all the work, now all you have to do is accept it”, or one of the most recent is, “The commandments are no longer necessary, they are of the Old Testament, but the only rule we need in the New Testament is, to love Jesus as He loves us, or to love one another as we love ourselves”.

My reason for bringing  all of this up is not as another prelude for arguing against the false doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved”.  Rather, I have a different reason this time, and it has to do with what Catholics believe Jesus really means when he commands us to love one another.   Is a simple verbal confession of faith in one’s love for Christ, the type of love Jesus not only speaks of, but models for us in the Gospels?

As we reflect upon the death and resurrection of Christ this Lenten season, we might want to think about what loving Christ really means, and I have spent some time doing just this.  I have reflected most particularly on the Gospel of John, and some very telling passages that relate to how we are called to live as Christians today.  I wanted to share some thoughts I had.

I would like to begin with Chapter 13, where Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples.  Jesus, our guide, our master, and our glorious savior, becomes a slave.  “You will never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered him.  “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”  John 13:8 Peter has trouble accepting Jesus’ role as servant, but Jesus is showing the disciples who he really is, and as the world will later see, He will lay down his life for those who love Him.  He also expects his disciples to follow him in this role.  If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  John 13:14

We are to imitate Jesus as a humble servant, and though Peter appears to be zealous in his desire to follow Jesus, Peter will stumble, for this is a tall order for any human being.  I give you a new commandment: love one another: As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  13:34. Is Peter truly ready to love Jesus as Jesus loves him?  We see later that Peter denies Jesus three times, and he does not demonstrate this kind of love at first, even though he claims that he will lay down his life for Jesus.  But, Peter, in a sense, has it right.  Jesus truly is talking about the type of love that has no limits.  This is my commandment:  love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this;  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:12

In one of the most moving scenes in the Gospel, we read about the great mercy of Jesus, and we see that though Peter is given another chance to proclaim his love for Jesus, he does not fully realize where his love will eventually take him, and what following Jesus is really going to mean.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you, “He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?”  and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."   John 21:15-17

He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when he had said this, he said to him,   “Follow me.”  John 21:19

We know that Peter’s love eventually takes him to his own cross.  We know that this is what Jesus means when he says, “Follow me”.  There are really no limits to how much we can love Jesus, and when I think of the words, “All you have to do is accept the work of Christ on the Cross and you will be saved”,  or  “The only rule we need is to love one another as Jesus loves us”,  I think of the words ‘only’, and ‘all’, and I know, that like Peter, we do not always fully appreciate what it means to follow Jesus.  I also know, however, that the Grace of Jesus carries us where we dare not think of going.

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.  John  21: 18.

So, when we reflect upon Jesus’ command to love one another as He loves us, we need also to remember that he died on the cross for us.  Our hope, is in His resurrection, which is what we will celebrate on Easter Sunday tomorrow.

John 13:8
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8Peter saith to him: Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.
John 13:14
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14If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet.
John 15:12
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12This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.
John 21:15-17
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15When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.
16He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.
17He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.
John 21:19
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19And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me.
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