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August 2009

(Original version April 1981)

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Do you know when the gospel relates these words? They are in John's gospel just before Jesus wrapped the towel round himself to wash his disciples' feet and was preparing for his passion.

In his last moments with them, Jesus reveals the love that he had always had for them in a way that is unsurpassed and very clear.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The words 'to the end' mean right to the very end of his life, to his very last breath. But that phrase also contains the idea of perfection. It is intended to express the truth that he loves them completely, totally, with all his heart, to the very peak of love.

The disciples of Jesus would stay in the world while Jesus would go to glory. They would feel alone, they would have to overcome many trials, and it is precisely for such moments that Jesus wanted them to be sure of his love.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Can you sense in this word the style of life of Christ, his way of loving? He washed his disciples' feet. His love led him to do even this service, which in those days was usually done only by slaves.

Jesus is preparing himself for the tragedy of Calvary, when he will give to 'his own' and to all, in addition to his amazing words, in addition to his very miracles, in addition to all his deeds, also his life.

They needed this. Theirs was the greatest need of the whole human race: to be liberated from sin, which means from death, and to be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They were to have peace and joy in the Life without end.

And so Jesus offers himself up to death, crying out his forsakenness by the Father, to the point of being able to say: 'It is finished'.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

In these words are both the tenacity of the love of a God and the tenderness of a brother's affection, and we Christians, because Christ is in us, can also love like this.

At this point, however, I don't wish to suggest so much the imitation of Jesus by dying (when his time had come) for others. Neither do I wish to offer you as necessary examples Father Kolbe who died in place of a fellow prisoner, or Father Damien who, becoming a leper with the lepers, died with them and for them.

It may be that never, in the course of your life, will you be asked to give your physical life for your neighbour. But what God certainly does ask of you is to love your neighbour without reservation, right 'to the end', until you too can say: 'It is finished'.

This is what Cetti did. She was an eleven year old Italian girl. She saw that her friend and companion Georgina, of the same age, was extremely sad. She tried to comfort her, but without success. So she decided to get to the bottom of why she was so sad. She learned that Georgina's father had died and that her mother had left her alone with her grandmother and gone to live with another man. Cetti could sense the tragedy and decided to do something about it. Although just a child, she asked Georgina to let her talk to her mother, but Georgina begged her first to go with her to visit her father's grave. With great love Cetti went with her and listened as she sobbed and implored her father to come and take her with him.

It was heartbreaking for Cetti. Nearby there was a little ruined church and the two girls went in. The only things left inside the church were a small tabernacle and a crucifix. Cetti said, 'Look, everything in this world is going to be destroyed; but that crucifix and that tabernacle will remain'. Georgina dried her tears and replied, 'Yes, you're right!' Then Cetti took Georgina gently by the hand and went with her to her mother.

When they arrived Cetti addressed the mother firmly and said, 'I know this is none of my business, but it seems that you've left your daughter without a mother's love which she needs. And I'll say one thing more: you'll never find peace until you take her back to live with you and are sorry and decide to change.'

The following day in school Cetti continued to support Georgina with her love. But something new happened: after school, a car came to pick Georgina up. It was her mother. From that day on, the car kept coming regularly because Georgina was back with her mother, who broke off the relationship with the man she had been living with.

Looking at the small, but significant things Cetti did, we could say, 'It is finished'. She did everything well, right to the end, and she achieved what she set out to do.

Think about it. How often have you started to take care of someone and then given up, quietening your conscience with thousands of excuses? How many activities have you started with enthusiasm and then given up in the face of difficulties you felt were beyond your strength?

This is the lesson Jesus gives you today:

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Do this! And if one day God should actually ask for your life, you will not hesitate. The martyrs went to their death singing, and your reward will be the greatest glory, because Jesus said that there is no love greater in the world than to give one's life for one's friends.

Chiara Lubich

 

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