If you were about to leave this Earth, what would you want to say to your family and dear friends gathered around you? What gifts might you want to leave them with to remember you by? What words of wisdom would you want to give your children and grandchildren to help guide them through the rest of their lives?
Jesus had the opportunity to share one final meal with His dearest friends before He died. It was highly emotional for Him because he was aware that in a few short hours he would endure a torturous death. Likewise, His disciples must have known that something big was about to happen and that their lives were soon to be dramatically changed.
As any of us would at such an emotional time, Jesus simply wanted His disciples to know that He loved them. The reason He was born, the reason He would die on the cross, would be to show His love. In those hours before He would be killed, He wanted to remind those closest to Him that, in the end, it was all about love.
The love that Jesus came to show, however, was more than affection or warm feelings. Rather it was a love that was willing to sacrifice itself for others. It was a love willing to endure hardships, difficulties and even death. It was a love that shows itself not in boxes of candy or bouquets of flowers but on the wood of the cross.
Jesus gathered the disciples around Him not only to share His love with them but also to give them a gift. The gift was the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit promised to the disciples at the Last Supper is love itself. One God with the Father and with Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon all believers giving us the power to love.
Because the Spirit of Jesus is within us, we can love as He did. If it were only up to us, given our weak human nature, we could never show the type of self-sacrificing love Jesus showed on the cross. We would only know how to give love to those who love us back. Without Jesus and His Spirit, we could never forgive our enemies, go without food to feed others or give up our lives to witness to our faith. The Spirit of love - the Spirit of Jesus - makes all that possible.
And so, Jesus’ Spirit is His gift to those He loves. It is His gift to us who believe in Him. All these centuries since his death and resurrection, that same Spirit lives, moves and breathes in us through our baptism and through the gift of faith.
Not only does Jesus tell the disciples of His love, not only does He promise them the gift of love itself in the person of the Holy Spirit, He also leaves them with some parting words of wisdom. He tells them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The commandments of God instruct us on how we are to live. They guide us in the way that leads to happiness. By following God’s law we avoid whatever could harm us. There is no better advice any of us could give or follow than to do whatever God commands us to.
The love of Jesus revealed in the commandments also teaches us that sin is primarily a refusal to love God and others. Sin deadens love within us. It hardens our hearts and makes us selfish. Jesus did not reveal the commandments to us in order to control us or curtail our freedom. He does not want to take the fun or pleasure out of life. Rather all His commandments free us from selfishness and pride so that we know what it means to truly love God and others from the heart.
The wisdom of Jesus’ commandment of love teaches us something more. Because we have the Spirit of love living and moving within us, it is not enough for us to limit our actions to not hurting others or avoiding sin. If we are to love as Jesus loved, as we are empowered to love in the Spirit, then we must reach out to help others. It is not enough, then, for us not to steal. We must also be willing to go hungry so that others may eat. We must be willing to spend a night in the cold so that another may have our blanket. It is not enough for us not to kill. We must also forgive those who harm us rather than seek revenge. We must stand up for and be ready to defend the innocent whose lives are being taken every minute through abortion, starvation and war. We must be willing to give our lives if necessary to see that justice is done for the poor and weak.
It may sound daunting or even impossible. But to those who are given the Spirit of Christ, all things are possible. That Spirit of God which is the love of the Father and Son casts out all fear, strengthens us for good deeds and makes us understand the right course of action in all things.
Like any person about to die, Jesus wanted to share His love, give His Spirit as a gift and share the wisdom of His commandment of love. Furthermore, He promised that He would remain with us always. He is among us whenever we gather in His name. He is within us because of His Spirit dwelling in our hearts. And in a most wonderful way, His Body and Blood will be given to us through the miracle of the Eucharist. He promises that nothing can separate us from His love. We cannot see Him with our eyes, yet we believe through faith that He is here. Through our acts of selfless love, we show Him to an unbelieving world. By the mystery of His cross and resurrection, we hold onto the hope that we will one day live with Him forever.
Jesus is here! Let us rejoice!