Fifth Sunday of Easter
JN 13:31-33A, 34-35
April 24, 2016

A British research team has published a convincing study showing that “loneliness and social isolation can increase a person’s chances of suffering stroke or heart disease by as much as 30%.”

While he did not mention this particular study, Pope Francis’s recent Apostolic Exhortation: Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) definitely sets out the numerous situations that might bring about these harmful feelings. Likewise, in his 267 pages, the Holy Father suggests ways in which loneliness and social isolation can be avoided. Everything he proposes somehow ties into this week’s Gospel…“I give you a new commandment. Just as I have loved you…you also must love one another.”

It has been suggested that the whole of the Bible can be reduced to that brief sentence spoken by The Son of God that concludes with the command, “…you also must love one another.”

As the title suggests, this “Commandment of Love” is at the heart of the latest Papal teaching, which attempts to draw together the thoughts of Catholic Christians from around the world, voiced during the two-session Synod on the Family. Francis’s insights are invaluable.

On the other hand, if you aren’t able to read the entire document, you would be safe in saying: Pope Francis is telling us “…you also must love one another.”

Oddly enough, Francis begins his rather lengthy reflection by musing: “For where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words.” Later, he clarifies that point by quoting St. Ignatius of Loyola who once observed that: “Love is shown more by deeds than by words.” While it is true that there is great joy in love, it is equally true that love very often brings with it the most gut-wrenching pain. Possibly that is what Jesus means when He says: “…just as I have loved you.”

During His time on earth, His unconditional love was the source of enormous joy for Him…but His unconditional love was also the cause of His unimaginable suffering.

Libraries have been written about love. Most music is inspired by and speaks of love…sometimes love lost…sometimes love unrequited…sometimes love rejoiced. And the complete absence of love is evident on the front page almost every day, as we hear news reports on terror, war, violence, hunger, homelessness, prejudice, and bigotry.

Maybe the best thing to do in a reflection on this “New Commandment” is to just sit in silence and allow God’s all-powerful love do its work within us.

But before I fall silent, let me conclude by saying that if just for a moment…all humankind was to be perfectly obedient to this “New Commandment,” then the passage from the Book of Revelation would not simply be a vision, but reality. If, for a single moment, love triumphed, there would be no more loneliness or isolation…or anything else that causes pain, suffering, and death.

If, for a split second, the whole world LOVED…there would be only God…Who IS Love!