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That challenging commandment

Today’s gospel (Jn 13:31–35) presents a challenge to the Christian believer –  that it is the looming betrayal of Jesus by Judas and His subsequent agony and shameful death on the cross that will bring about His glorification and the glorification of the Father.

Fully aware that one of His closest followers exchanges loyalty to Him for a mere thirty pieces of silver and of the public’s howls for His life though He is innocent of any wrongdoing, Jesus calls on His disciples to love one another, as He had loved them.

We who are called upon to follow Jesus and to obey His commandments are faced with the seeming contradiction that our own eternal joy depends on our acceptance that we must suffer in His name before we can follow Him into glory.

This is a difficult challenge for us as we go about the business of living in a world that mocks our Christian values and seeks to ‘cancel’ the validity of our struggle to be Christ-like amid the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary difficulties that face us.

Our hope lies, not in earthly or worldly ‘glorification’, but in the sure knowledge that Our Saviour understands and walks with us through our suffering and is waiting to receive us before the throne of God to a life of joy beyond our human comprehension.

Last week, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Divine Shepherd.  Coincidentally, we also celebrated the wonder of motherhood on Mother’s Day.

The Great Shepherd calls His sheep to safety amid the perils that surround us.  While we often genuinely want to listen to His voice, we are distracted by the cacophony of noises that can lead us away from Him and into lives of hollowness and eventually pointless suffering.

How, we wonder, do we reconcile the horrors of war in Ukraine, and Afghanistan with the call of the Shepherd. How do we explain, even to ourselves, the brutality of the many forms of domestic violence, the terror of criminality unleashed by our own upon our people, the hopelessness of suicide and the carnage that has become a familiar feature on our roads.

The voices of false shepherds whose agenda precludes the good of any others fill us with misinformation and disinformation and are voices of selfish and arrogant betrayal. They lead the false shepherd and those whom they deliberately mislead into an abyss of sure destruction where no comfort, strength or joy are to be found.

The lifelong vocation of motherhood brings great hope and joy and can witness to the fulfilment of the dreams of the child and of the parent. Even this noble calling, however, is not immune to disappointment and sometimes betrayal and a lack of love.

In spite of this, the mother is called upon to forgive, to love and never to give up hope in her child. It is this quality that unites her with the Divine Shepherd and to the Christ who called upon His followers to love, even in the face of perceived failure.

As Christians in a world of turmoil, we know that we cannot escape the “slings and arrows” of life but our great comfort, strength and joy lie in our confidence that our God loves us and will never leave us without the protection of His Son.

There is no reward greater than that of knowing, loving and serving our God and being united with Him after our earthly life.

We follow the Risen Lord as we fulfil the commandment to love one another, confident that in so doing, we have the Divine strength and grace that will conquer all obstacles and will lead us to eternal joy and life.

Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash