Last Sunday President Emmanuel Macron at the age of 39 driving up the Champs-Élysées in a military vehicle and the epaulets on Ms. Macron’s inauguration jacket and its shiny double-breasted rows of buttons and her skirt above her bare knees at the age of 64 clearly revealed military symbolism. Personally I interpreted that symbolism on the grounds of their unconventional love affair overcoming 24 year gap as a sign of their battle spirit to fight and break any boundary walls, contrary to Donald Trump. “This is my new commandment, love one another.” (John 13:34, 15:12).
According to her own private writings, it is surprising that Mother Teresa was plagued by darkness in which she could not feel the presence of Christ for more than half her life.1 However, she showed God’s love for all by her care of the poor and dying in Calcutta, while she had to struggle in her own spiritual life to be enraptured by the Holy Spirit. I am not saying Mother Teresa did not experience Christ’s love. Intellectually she knew it, because his love was clearly manifested in his teaching, preaching, healing, and interacting with the downtrodden everywhere between Jerusalem and Galilee. Imitating Christ, indeed she expressed her love for the poor and the dying on the streets in Calcutta despite her own private feelings: darkness. Perhaps that’s why we may respect her more than a saint. One day when she held a dying man’s head in her hands on a Calcutta street, he looked at her and said “Thank you!” Then he died. Telling this story on TV, suddenly she smiled. I was deeply touched by her beautiful smile, which had been hidden under her serious look like a bald eagle. Wow! “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).
Two weeks from now it’s Pentecost. Remembering Jesus’ twelve disciples, I’d like to have you get 12 blank index cards when you go home. Divide them into two piles; six each. Take one set of six cards and write down the names of six people from our congregation that you think you like very much; one name on each card. And then write the names of six other people you think you don’t like on the other six index cards. Once you have done that, turn the cards over, and write down just a couple of words about what it is you like or dislike about the person on the other side of the card. Then put the cards away until Pentecost.
In the power of the Holy Spirit we can cross the chasm that separates us from one another. It is the Holy Spirit that makes us cross the boundary wall between likes and dislikes, between love and hate. On Pentecost in a multitude of many languages, spoken in many different lands, everyone heard the wonders of God in their own mother tongue. So on Pentecost, take your dozen cards and looking at them face down, read a few words on the back. You know whose description you read, you know whose character is pinpointed out in those few words. Those six names of faces and characters you like and the other six names of faces and characters you dislike are exactly the copies of you yourself. If I do not accept them as my own, I am never at peace with myself, because they are exact mirrors of me. Do you remember Bob Dylan’s song, “Desolation Row” I already preached about? The residents of the desolation row across the street like Casanova, Bob Dylan sings, are exact copies of himself.
The glorious experience of Pentecost is this insight that all are one in Christ, the good and the bad, the likes and the dislikes, the poor and the rich, the sinners and the saints, in so many different languages and skin colors in the magnificent mirabilia dei, the marvelous works of God. “This is my commandment, love one another.”
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). “Love one another!” (John 13:34, 15:12). Jesus gave this new commandment right after he predicted Judas’ betrayal. So the moment when Judas closed the door behind him and slipped into the dark night means to Jesus his own tragic death; however, accepting that moment as the moment of his own glory and at the same time as the moment of giving a new commandment, he says to his disciples: “Love one another!” After Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal, and before he again predicts Peter’s denial, in between these two predictions Jesus gives his new commandment to his disciples: “Love one another.” When the crucifixion actually happened, I believe, Peter hated himself; and Judas also hated himself. What about the rest of the disciples’ feeling toward Judas after they found out how he actually betrayed Jesus? I wonder if they were reminded of Jesus’ new commandment at that moment when they were aware of their hatred toward Judas. If they were reminded of Jesus’ new commandment, “Love one another,” I think, they might have realized a boundary between love and hatred: They had to break the boundary wall and forgive Judas, and love him; however, probably they couldn’t.
So on Pentecost, let us burn those 12 index cards in red flames. How can we build a boundary wall between likes and dislikes for people who love God and are loved by God? How can we like the white swan and dislike the black swan in a pond? How can we say we do not like some of God’s creation? In the Holy Spirit we can accept likes and dislikes, breaking the boundary walls, and even love one another. Love the triune God and love your neighbors. Embrace even those whom you like and dislike, and love them all in the Holy Spirit. You will be blessed in peace and grace. Amen. ___________________________
1. Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta New York: Double Day, 2007
Gospel Text: John 14:15-21