NO GREATER LOVE
READ: John 15:9-13
And then Jesus said to His disciples at the Last Supper, “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:9-13
In the story of the love of Tobias for a woman named Sarah, the Book of Tobit describes that love in a most profound way …“Tobias fell so deeply in love with Sarah that he could no longer call his heart his own.” I find insight in that description ...”He fell so deeply in love with her that he could no longer call his heart … his own.”
Now to borrow that phrase in describing the love of Christ …“Christ fell so deeply in love with God and humanity that Christ could no longer call His heart … His own.” To go further …“The Christian is to fall so deeply in love with Christ that he or she can no longer call his or her heart … his or her own.” And if we went even further, “Christian disciples are to so love one another that they can no longer call their hearts … their own.”
Here at Greyfriars’ Abbey lives a certain Brother who is especially quiet. Oh, he will speak if necessary, but most often, it is not necessary. Through gestures and signs he can communicate most of what he needs to communicate. (You did know the sign language used by the deaf originated in Cistercian monasteries, where a vow of silence is kept.) This quiet Brother is named Brother Amos from Wales. He has a most expressive face, a face that is accented with the most expressive, sky-blue eyes and with the most expressive, gentle smile. One of his most beautiful expressions made in his silent way is his expression of his love for you. Now and then, Brother Amos of Wales will walk up to you, take his hand and lay it on his own heart, and then takes that hand and lays it on your heart, and then returns that hand to his own heart once more. I take this gesture to mean, “My heart is with your heart and your heart is with mine.”
In the garden of nearby Sacred Heart Convent is a statue of Jesus. It is an expression of a certain strain of Christian mysticism called “The Devotion to the Sacred Heart”. It is quite popular among the Jesuits and within the Catholic Church in Latin America, but still is seen worldwide. It emphasizes, in most vivid ways, the compassionate heart of Jesus and how His heart was pierced by our sins. It emphasizes the “heart” dimension of our Christian faith, the passion of the Heart. In its artistic expression in painting or sculpture, Jesus is portrayed with His heart exposed. It speaks of the vulnerability of Christ’s love and how it led Him to the suffering of the cross. And it speaks of the vulnerability our own Christian love is to have. We are to love with open hearts.
Oh, young romance is filled songs of passionate love and the risk of heartbreak that go with it. Presently, I am re-reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, passionate love in its most dramatic and tragic setting, And in a certain, different way, our Christian love – if it is truly the love that one finds in the heart of Christ – also has its risk of heartbreak. When we love in Christ, we love because it is our way … And we keep loving … even when we experience rejection, even when we experience being taken advantage of, even when we end up heart-broken. We love because it is the way of the heart of Christ. Loving others sometimes hurts; but still the loving of others is the way of the Christian Heart, the heart of Christ that beats in the heart of the Christian disciple.
On that night before His own crucifixion, Jesus shared His most vulnerable heart with His loved ones and said, “Remember this, My Friends. There is no greater love than to lay down your life for those whom he loves.” His heart became one with their heart and their hearts became one with His (except maybe, Judas’ heart). As Christians, our hope is that we will come to live … with this … no Greater Love. Love, unwilling sacrifice self, is not truly Christian love at all. No Greater Love risks the heartache for the sake of the Beloved.
Brother Anthony of the Cross