Love: The Christian Identity Card

In Rome this past weekend, more than 70 thousand teens from Italy and the world traveled to Rome for a Jubilee pilgrimage celebrating the Year of Mercy. On Saturday, priests (sitting on chairs in the open air) heard the confessions of these young people in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis joined them, hearing the confessions of 16 young people.

On Sunday, the pope addressed the young people in  his sermon.

The Pope told the thousands of 13 to 16 year olds gathered in St Peter’s Square that “love, was the Christian’s identity card, the only valid “document” identifying us as Christians.  If this card expires and is not constantly renewed,” he said, “we stop being witnesses of the Master.”

Then he asked the teenagers gathered “Do you want to experience the love of Jesus? Let us learn from him, for his words are a school of life, a school where we learn to love.”

The Holy Father noted, however, that although love is beautiful and it’s the path to happiness it is not necessarily and easy path.  It is, he said, demanding and it requires effort.

Sunday’s Gospel, from the book of John, was short, but powerful. It formed the basis of Pope Francis’ remarks:

When Judas had left them, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him,
God will also glorify him in himself,
and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

It is easy to dismiss the Gospel (and Pope Francis’ remarks) as simply “feel good” words: let’s all love each other and be happy! But a closer reading reveals that Jesus is asking a great deal from us. Although the disciples did not yet know it, Jesus would show them the extent of His love: His sacrificial death on the Cross. Jesus willingly burdened Himself with our sins, was beaten, humiliated and died a slow, agonizing death – because He loves us.

Jesus is telling us that, if we truly want to bear the name “Christian,” to carry the “Christian identity card” – we must love each other in a sacrificial manner. So, what would that look like? St. Paul, in his writings to the citizens of Corinth, makes it clear:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Today, we are all students in the school of love. We must learn love, we must practice love, we must accept love, and we must love all those who cross our paths. It is our identity as disciples of Christ.