John 13: 20-33
31 When he went out, Jesus said, "Now has been revealed the extraordinary quality of being of the new Adam, and by him that of God also. 32 If the extraordinary quality of being of God has been manifested in him, God will continue to manifest it through his person, and he will do so soon. 33 My little children, I am still with you for a short time; you will seek me, and as I said to the Jews, that is 'Where I go, you yourself cannot go', I tell you also now. 34 I leave you a new rule, that of loving one another; as I have loved you, love one another also. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, provided that you have love for one another".
What the pharaohs left us
Gospel commentary - Homily
What monument to history?
The events concerning Iraq, and more particularly those associated with the figure of Saddam Hussein, have received media attention for several months now. We witnessed the debunking and the destruction of dozens of monuments erected in honor of the "savior of the nation". And this mythical city of Babylon that he wanted to restore and associate with his name, symbolizing an immemorial history where he would appear among the greatest. Without wanting to reduce the character to this fact, he still has a direction given to his life.
It is curiously this context which came to my mind when reading the Gospel of this Sunday. Not that there is a possible association between Jesus and Saddam. But on the contrary, it is rather the radical opposition of two paths. When facing his arrest and finding himself completely helpless with the bandits, a few hours before his death, Jesus describes this moment according to the evangelist as that of the manifestation of the exceptional quality of his being ("glorification", according to the usual translation), just like that of the being of God. Of course, for the eyes of faith, there is resurrection at the end. But what is visible for the moment is a being who will be flouted, diminished and who will experience an atrocious death.
I talked about Saddam and Jesus. This tension between two paths, we carry it deep within us. Saddam is said to have been raised in violence by an uncle who kept telling him that he was nothing. And undoubtedly all these monuments which he wanted to erect are a cry to say, "Yes, I am someone". For our part, very far from such violence, there is not doubt that we still want to leave a name, we want to be considered by others, we want to succeed in the eyes of society. Which scientist is completely indifferent to one day receiving the Nobel Prize?
The key for moving from the path taken by Saddam to the one taken by Jesus, you know, is that of love. This is what Jesus himself says in the form of a will which summarizes his life and gives a sense of what he is going through: "I leave you a new rule, that you love one another". However, despite appearances, love is very often a reality that escapes us, almost unfathomable. What is it really to love?
I recently read the testimony of a terminally ill patient in palliative care referring to the extraordinary work of volunteers who help him die with dignity. This testimony joined others concerning the work of certain admirable interveners in hospitals, despite all the horror stories we have heard. What then is to love? Probably let yourself be led by a movement full of tenderness at the bottom of yourself, by which you can see through a distorted face a heart similar to your own.
In his will, Jesus adds, "As I have loved you, love one another". This word can be understood in two ways: "Take me as a model in the way you love others", but also "As I first loved you, in turn love others." But these two meanings cannot be separated. Because how can I take the difficult path followed by Jesus if my need to be someone is not satisfied by the intense feeling of being loved by someone and of being worth in the eyes of others? On the other hand, and it is my conviction, by learning to love others, I also learn to love myself.
If I refer to my own experience, I must say that what helps me at certain times on the difficult path of love is the figure of Jesus: I am sometimes successful in finding it in those who do not let themselves easily be love, a little like a spouse searches for the features of the loved one in their child; I sometimes find it in me at times when it is difficult for me to reconcile with myself, thinking that someone likes this face. Whether with others or with myself, I am led along this mysterious path where I am a simple apprentice, but where I believe that I will end up seeing Jesus in everything.
What monument can we really leave behind? Saddam was mistaken, because he sought it outside the ways of love. Because the only monument that really remains is that of our lives in flesh and blood, to the extent that they are inhabited by the same love as that of the Living Easter. It is then an eternal construction which has the dimensions of God.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, January 2004