Leaving our Christian calling card

| Deacon Adam Hamness | April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments
Pope Francis kisses a disabled man after spotting him in the crowd and having his popemobile stop as he rode through St. Peter’s Square March 19 ahead of his inaugural Mass at the Vatican. “A focus of his pontificate, if we can make any assumption at this early stage, seems to be on manifest and deliberate acts of love for others,” writes Deacon Adam Hamness. CNS photo / L’Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis kisses a disabled man after spotting him in the crowd and having his popemobile stop as he rode through St. Peter’s Square March 19 ahead of his inaugural Mass at the Vatican. “A focus of his pontificate, if we can make any assumption at this early stage, seems to be on manifest and deliberate acts of love for others,” writes Deacon Adam Hamness. CNS photo / L’Osservatore Romano

In the Gospel of John, our Lord says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

In other words, this love for each other, by the command of the Lord, is supposed to be our Christian calling card. Just as policemen are recognized by their typically dark blue uniforms and bellhops are recognized by their hats, so too should Christians be immediately recognizable — by the love we have for one another.

This is the Lord’s command. He does not command that we wear crosses around our necks for identification as members of his flock, although wearing a cross is not an objectionable thing. Rather, he commands visible love for each other.

I think Pope Francis must have been inspired by this verse at some point in his life because a focus of his pontificate, if we can make any assumption at this early stage, seems to be on manifest and deliberate acts of love for others.

You’ve heard the stories about him in the press, the way he called up his old newspaper stand in Buenos Aires to personally cancel his subscription, or how he has been deliberate about getting out into the crowds in St. Peter’s Square to greet pilgrims.

Meeting the needs of others

St. Thomas Aquinas gave a precise definition of love: to will the good of another. This means to mentally desire what is best for another person and to physically act upon this desire. If the badge of our Christianity, our love for others, ends only with a mental wish for the other’s well-being, then we are falling short of our Lord’s command.

This is what I think Pope Francis’ actions demonstrate for us. We must act upon our love for others; otherwise it is not a real love. When we see others, we must immediately approach them with love, giving them what they need — whether it is money, or food or just our full and undivided attention.

Love, the badge of our Christianity, is not something we can remove, as a policeman can remove his badge from his breast pocket. Instead, it is something that is constantly exuded from a real disciple of Christ. We cannot volunteer our time at a parish fundraiser on Sunday and ignore a person in need on Monday.

Maybe you are wondering why our Lord calls his directive a new commandment, recalling the line from the Old Testament, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Aren’t these commandments the same?

No, there is an important difference. In the first, we are commanded to love as we would want to be loved. In the new commandment, we are to love as God would love.

This is a whole new level of love. God sees the whole person. He sees right into the soul of all his sons and daughters, and he knows us better than we do ourselves.

This is a freeing kind of love. When we consider serving others, we might be initially turned off by their appearance or their attitude. But God, when looking at these same people, is never turned off. He sees the inner secrets of their hearts, and he judges them with mercy because he sees the struggles in their lives.

This is our task, to love as Jesus loves — not judging harshly, but loving with mercy. After all, hasn’t God been merciful with us?

 

Deacon Adam Hamness is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Diocese of Crookston. His home parish is Blessed Sacrament in Greenbush, Minn., and his teaching parish is St. John the Baptist in Jordan.

 


Readings

Sunday, April 28

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 14:21b-27

Revelation 21:1-5a

John 13:31-33a, 34-35

Reflection

How would others recognize you as a Christian?

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Category: Sunday Scriptures