Carvajal: The one and only way


“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do my command.” John 15:12-14 NLT.

From Jesus’ very lips, we get it that a Christian is not one that believes in his divinity but a friend who loves others in the same way he loves… unto death. Unfortunately, among us Catholics (I cannot speak for non-Catholic and pagan Christians) this truth has been so buried under a pile of ritual devotions and disciplinary rules (in full display during Holy Week) that the essence of being a Christian is now confused with the practice of these peripheral acts of piety.

It’s Holy Week, I thought I’d go back to a former life and write about some truths I have been lately encouraged to share by Pope Francis’ very contemporary quip that “abstinence is in the heart.”

In fact, Holy Week is in the heart. It reminds Catholics that Jesus’ death on the cross was the culmination of a life lived in love and compassion for the least of his brethren. Jesus spent his short life healing the sick, driving out evil spirits, feeding crowds of hungry people, finally dying to free people from the sin of observing more the letter than the spirit of God’s law of love.

Christians need to live daily Jesus’ love for us by at least speaking up, if not doing something, about the acts of injustice perpetrated on so many marginalized people today. Fasting, abstinence, and participating in long processions of richly decorated traditional carriages bearing holy images are meaningless, not in the heart as Pope Francis would say, if one is insensitive to the hunger, homelessness, ill-health, gender, religious, and racial prejudice, bullying, shaming etc. so many people are suffering in the hands of fellow Christians.

We are commemorating Jesus’ love for us at a time when, according to the international aid agency, Oxfam, “the state of income and wealth inequality is the worst in human history.” We thus need to abstain from approving with our silence the inaction of business, political and religious leaders against acts of injustice that are prevalent in the country and the world today. With our planet under threat of destruction, we should also abstain from indiscriminate disposal of waste and from profligate use of the earth’s resources.

All the brokenness in the country and the world is caused by our failure to take Jesus up seriously on his command to love each other in the same way he does. This is the greatest sin we should ask forgiveness for.

We need to take Jesus seriously at his invitation to friendship by loving each other as he loves us. We need to stop the hypocrisy of replacing genuine acts of love for a suffering neighbor with ritual acts of piety that only make us feel good about ourselves. This is the hardest thing to do for selfish humans. But it is the one and only way to be a true Christian and friend of Jesus.

Happy Easter, everyone!


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