Before a business trip, Steve realized he needed some quick dry-cleaning for the clothes he was going to take with him. He looked up dry-cleaners on line and found one called “One-Hour Dry Cleaning.” The shop was not that far so he grabbed his things and went over to drop them off.
The clerk took the garments and asked, “When do you need them?” Steve said: “I need them in an hour.” The clerk responded: “The best we can do is two days.” To which Steve said: “But your sign says ‘one-hour dry-cleaning.” She responded: “Oh, that’s just the name of the store.”
In Acts of the Apostles, we learn what’s in a name for believers in Jesus Christ. While Paul and Barnabas were teaching in Antioch for a year, we are told of the large number of people who became believers. It was there that “the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26.) The name “Christian” or the name “Catholic” were applied to people who followed, believed in and lived in Christ Jesus. The name means something. Jesus reminds us today what that is.
The Gospel passage for today’s Mass comes from The Gospel According to John in what scholars call the “Book of Glory.” This section in the Gospel covers the second half of the text. A large portion of Jesus’ teaching in this section comes at the Last Supper just before Jesus’ arrest and the beginning of the Passion. The section begins with the famous scene of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, after which he instructs them: “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Shortly after this we find Jesus’ command that we hear today: “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.”
Jesus’ command is to love one another. Jesus lives the life of love. Every Sunday we hear from the Gospels and recall Jesus living the life of love. We continue to celebrate Easter when his life of love culminated in his laying down his life in love (“there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends; you are my friends if you keep what I command you”). His resurrection is the triumph of love and life. Since Easter we’ve been hearing from Acts of the Apostles of the spread of the Gospel and the church. Over and over again we hear that this communion established by and in the paschal mystery is noted for its love.
The command to love and the work of love continue today in the life of the church and in the lives of her members. Throughout the world and in our local community, we witness and participate in the life of love. Being human, we do not live it perfectly, but we strive to live it out more and more each day.
Love and life are so tied together that the First Letter of John will say: “God is love.” The full verse reads: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:7-10).
The passage from Acts for today’s first reading concludes: “And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” Paul and Barnabas have returned after a missionary journey. That mission was a mission of love and life as they invite others to know and experience the love of God in Christ Jesus. Notice that they attribute all that had happened to the grace of God. God was the primary actor in their work of love – because God is love.
Jesus’ commandment to love is the hallmark of our lives as his disciples. Like the first disciples, we share that life of love by living the life of love.
In doing so, unlike the name of the dry-cleaning shop, our name means something.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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