By Linda Bordoni
During the Regina Coeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel of the day that speaks of God’s love for us and of his order to love each other as we love ourselves.
“Today’s Gospel”, the Pope said, “takes us into the Upper Room to hear some of the words that Jesus addressed to his disciples in his ‘farewell address’ before his passion”.
He recalled how after washing the feet of the twelve apostles, He says to them: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”.
In what sense is this commandment new?
But in what sense is this commandment ‘new’? The Pope asked, pointing out that already in the Old Testament God had ordered his people to love their neighbours as themselves, and that Jesus had already described as the greatest commandment of the Law to love God with all one’s heart, and the second to love one’s neighbour as oneself.
Explaining the novelty of this commandment that Jesus entrusts to his disciples before departing from this world, Pope Francis said “The old commandment of love has become new because it has been completed with the addition ‘as I have loved you’.
The novelty, he said, is in the love of Jesus Christ, He who gave His life for us.
It’s all about God’s universal love, the Pope continued, a love without conditions and without limits, “which comes to its apex on the cross”.
“In that moment of extreme abandonment to the Father, the Son of God showed and gave the world the fullness of love”, he said.
So, he continued, “thinking back to Christ’s passion and agony, the disciples understood the meaning of his words: ‘As I have loved you, so you also should love one another’.”
God’s love for us knows no limits
Jesus, the Pope said, loved us despite our frailties, our limitations and our human weaknesses. It was He who made us worthy of His love, which knows no limits and never ends.
By giving us the new commandment, the Pope added, He asks us to love one another not only with our love, but with his love, the love the Holy Spirit infuses into our hearts if we invoke him with faith.
Only in this way, he explained, can we love one another not only as we love ourselves, but as He loved us: that is, immensely more.
“God loves us much more than we love ourselves”, he said.
Only in this way, Pope Francis said, can we “spread the seed of love that renews relationships between people and opens horizons of hope”.
A love that enables us to forge a fraternal society
“This love makes us new men and women, brothers and sisters in the Lord, it makes us the new People of God, the Church, in which everyone is called to love Christ and in Him to love one another”, he said.
The love manifested in the Cross, the Pope said, “is the only force that transforms our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; that makes us capable of loving our enemies and forgiving those who have offended us; that makes us see the other as a present or future member of the community of Jesus’ friends; that stimulates us to dialogue and helps us to listen to one another and know one another”.
“Love opens us up to others, becoming the foundation of human relationships”, he concluded, “It enables us to overcome the barriers of our own weaknesses and prejudices, it creates bridges, it teaches new ways, it triggers the dynamism of fraternity”.