Our gospel reading picks up right after Judas has left to bring back the soldiers to arrest Jesus and begin the trials that will lead to crucifixion on Good Friday. And now that the passion is definitely under way Jesus proclaims to the remaining apostles, “Now is the son of man glorified.” And the next thing he says is, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” He tells us that as he has loved us so we should love one another. And it is through our loving each other that the world will know we belong to Christ.
The new commandment replaces the old covenant of the Mosaic law. Let us remember that we received the law from Moses because our forefathers had rejected the original relationship of loving harmony with God and neighbor. Adam and Eve had an intimate relationship with God, for the book of Genesis tells us that they walked naked with God in the evening in the garden of Eden. And they had no sense of shame at their nakedness. Shame came with the fall, with the decision to listen to the serpent and turn away from God.
When we hear Jesus announce a new commandment of love, we might be tempted to think that the message of the Old Testament is somehow different than the message of the New Testament. But the Old Testament and the New Testament are both parts of one message: our God loves us, he made us in love, and he made us for love. It was we who turned our backs on God and had to leave the garden of Eden. He didn’t kick us out, we did it to ourselves. But even as we were leaving the garden, God was planning on how to get us back. The rest of the Old Testament after that first couple of chapters in the book of Genesis is God reaching out to us through messengers and prophets calling us back to be in an intimate relationship with him. Sometimes it worked, but we could not maintain the relationship that he made us to have with him.