A reflection for the fifth Sunday of Easter

Rebecca Bratten Weiss reflects on the readings for May 15, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year C):

Acts 14:21-27
Psalm 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
Revelation 21:1-5a
John 13:34

Reflection: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

What does it mean, to love one another as Jesus loved his friends?

Growing up in evangelical and Catholic circles, it seemed like there was always an obvious answer to this: Jesus loved us so much that he died for us. The cross was the ultimate symbol of perfect love.

The message we got was, we needed to be willing to suffer and die, too. Even if that didn’t mean dying physically, there were many other ways we were told we needed to die metaphorically. We were told to deny ourselves and be suspicious of our own wants and needs, and of anything that gave us pleasure. We were supposed to submit to different structures of authority. We were not supposed to question.

And since Jesus gives his disciples this commandment, love one another as I have loved you, right before his crucifixion, you can see why people might fixate on that as the single defining event of Jesus’ earthly ministry.


But what Jesus’ disciples learned from him during their three years together, the example that Jesus gave them, was of the kind of love that cares for others, and that liberates. Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and even brought the dead back to life. Jesus’ love was not essentially about depriving himself of the goods of created material existence—but rather, of working to give those goods to others who lacked them.

When he was arrested and brutally executed by the state, the disciples were sad, afraid, even hopeless, because they had lost their beloved friend, teacher, and healer. And when Jesus returned to them, they rejoiced. Not because they were grateful to Jesus for having died, but because of this extraordinary miracle of ultimate liberation: liberation from death itself.

The cross is our symbol of salvation not because it teaches that suffering is good or necessary. It reminds us of hope and life. And this is something we are all called to work for. This is what it means to take up one’s cross.

We can’t separate the final act of his earthly life from all those other acts of love that came before it.

Jesus dying on the cross was an act of radical accompaniment into the deepest and darkest suffering of humanity, humanity unjustly abused, tortured, and murdered. When we think about Jesus’ death in this way, it helps us understand what it means to love one another as he loved us. It doesn’t mean seeking out suffering and self-obliteration for ourselves. It means seeking life and healing for others, as Jesus did. It means with those who are subjected to injustice, and against the powers that abuse the innocent. Even if it hurts us to do so.

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”