The language of these days is of death and life, suffering and passion, betrayal and faithfulness, even hate, but most of all the word which we hear again and again is love.
This word has a potency in our language. In English we use just one word to mean a variety of things. The context is all important and often the context immediately gives away the sort of love we mean. Occasionally, the word is so misused and the context so bizarre that we find ourselves a long way from love.
Tonight love is talked of in two specific ways. Jesus educates us in love. St John tells us that ‘he had always loved those who were his....’. And that: ‘....now he shows how perfect his love was’.
There are here two essential aspects of love. Its consistency and its demonstration.
Jesus is consistent in his love. He loves as God loves, but he quips his own to love in a way which is not just heroic, rather it is divine. If love comes from God then we must love as God loves. For that love is never self serving or self seeking. These things are so clearly not of God, so much more is achievable or those made in God’s image and likeness. This is the love which Pope Benedict (Encyclical letter Deus caritas est) describes as, ‘...stepping outside the limits of one’s closed individuality...breaking through into the divine....’
He always loved those who were his own, love to the end. Love until and beyond His words: It is finished.
As the window of eternity is opened, as our lives find meaning in their heavenly destiny, so love to the end is not just a childish way of doing what God wants and avoiding punishment; love to the end becomes the very manner of living by which our life is truly life giving. This consistency of love, his total love has nothing flighty and fickle about it. Our faith is defined by such love.
And His love is perfect, not simply because he washes feet, but rather because he has fed and healed and forgiven and in washing feet summaries the perfection of a love which will take him to the cross. The pope says: ‘It is the servant love of Jesus that draws us out of our pride and makes us fit for God, makes us clean’.
God’s Son then gives us both an example of love and its practical demonstration.
God’s Son shows us how love can be consistent and demonstrated in remarkable ways.
God’s Son proposes a way of living which has love at its heart and a love which gives life and makes life worthwhile.
And God’s Son becomes the very means by which all this is possible for the fragile, flighty, fickle human heart.
God’s Son gives us the new commandment and becomes the vey means by which we live it. Through him and with him and in him.
At God’s Son’s sacrifice we become His, and love as He loves and because He loves within us. This is not all pie in the sky, this is basic Christianity, this is the message of this night.