In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus gives his disciples and us the New Commandment.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35, NIV).
So what is “new” about this commandment? The duty of loving neighbors is grounded in the Old Testament and had been at the heart of the Covenant for centuries, so the notion of loving one another was not new. What is new is Jesus saying that we are to love another “as I have loved you.” This means that our love is not measured by the yardstick of our own capacity to love. Rather, we are to love as Jesus loved us. And how does Jesus love?
WITH BOUNDLESS MERCY!
Mercy is characterized by total giving of oneself. It is the selfless love that a mother or father gives to her or his child even though she or he is tired and has needs of her or his own to tend to. Mercy is the extension of that kind of love to all people—treating them as if they were one of the family.
This Sunday’s Gospel is particularly well-suited to remind those we teach that we are celebrating a Year of Mercy. If we are to love others as Jesus loved us, that means that we are to practice mercy.
By the way, this is a perfect Scripture passage to ask young people to memorize—to take to heart—so that they can recall what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. Consider taking some time out of class this week to invite the young people to memorize and reflect on this short Scripture passage, and then invite them to recite it from memory.
For more on integrating the Year of Mercy into your class, download the Works of Mercy prayers and activities packet.