John 13:31–33a, 34–35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, where I am going, you cannot come." I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
These verses are part of our Lord’s last discourse to his apostles at the last supper. They were said after Judas left the supper room to seek the chief priests and Pharisees to arrange for the betrayal of his master.
When Judas has left, Jesus speaks to the other eleven apostles. He sees his glorification, which actually occurred when he was raised by the Father from the dead, as already present. It has actually begun with the betrayal by Judas. The passion and death by crucifixion, which were so soon to come, were the final step in his human life of perfect obedience to his Father.
He uses the title Son of Man to stress the reality of his human nature for it was in his human nature that he gave perfect obedience to God, and it was in his human nature that he was glorified in the resurrection.
God is glorified by Christ’s perfect subjection in all things to him, and also by the raising of all mankind to sonship with God through Christ, who represents all human beings. Thus, he gives them a new commandment, charity, which was also commanded in the Old Testament but it was restricted to fellow Jews. Now, the charity commanded by Christ has to extend to all mankind. It must be like the real love that Christ himself had. One must therefore be ready to go as far as laying down one’s life for one’s fellowmen.
Jesus suggests that love for one another first, and then for all men is the proof of the true Christian. “See how these Christians love one another” was a remark passed concerning the early Christians. And their love for their non-Christian brothers and sisters was proved by the hardships, and even death, endured by the apostles and their followers in order to bring the Gospel of Christ, the knowledge of their eternal destiny, to Jew and Gentile.
We are disciples and follower of Christ, but how many of us would pass the test that Christ himself lays down for deciding who are his true followers? The word “charity” has a restricted meaning nowadays. It signifies giving an alms, a gift of money to a needy person. This is but a very small part of the true charity. Charity is the true love of neighbour which Christ made the distinguishing mark of the true Christian. He who truly loves his neighbour must be interested first and foremost in those things which concern that neighbour’s most important purpose in life, his eternal salvation.
It is never too late to be a true Christian. Begin today to take a true Christian interest in the spiritual fate of your family and neighours. Where words have already failed perhaps try prayer and example. The grace of God will cooperate with your sincere and charitable effort. Amen.