by Jennifer DiFrancesco
Remind us that the Good News is so magnificent
that we can’t completely understand it.
Open our hearts this day
that what our minds cannot comprehend
can be received deep within our spirit. Amen.
Scripture: John 13:31-35 (Common English Bible Translation)
When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One in himself and will glorify him immediately. Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’
“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
“This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” -John 13:35
About a year ago, I read a New York Times article posted on a friend’s Facebook wall entitled, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This.” If you didn’t see it, you can find it here.
Mandy Len Catron, the author of the article, is intrigued by psychologist Arthur Aron’s success in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. The experiment happened like this, Catron notes: “A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.”
Intrigued and fascinated, Catron attempts the experiment herself. She and a friend go to a restaurant and begin the 36 (almost random) questions. After completing the exercise, which takes about 50 minutes, Catron and her friend walk outside to do the last part of the experiment. They stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes.
She says this, “I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected.”
We witness Jesus, over and over again, in getting to know others deeply and intimately. We witness Jesus loving easily those “types” that get under our skin. We witness Jesus loving those that we see and deem as “unworthy.” We witness Jesus loving those that we walk past on street corners who are alone and hungry. We walk into this text moments before Judas betrays Jesus, and yet… Jesus never says it is easy to love the other. I think it was hard for Jesus to love the disciples, not easy. I’m convinced it was hard at times for Jesus to love the disciples, just like it is hard for us.
Questions to Spark Conversation
- Take one minute and write down or name aloud everything you know about Jesus.
- Are there similarities or a common thread in what you said? For instance, did you focus on Jesus’ miracles, his birth, etc.
- How is knowing facts about someone different from deeply knowing them?
- Who really knows you?
- What people are easy for you to love? And what people are hard for you to love?
- Who do you spend most of your time and energy loving on?
The lectionary text for this week challenges us to love one another. While the questions mentioned in the article are meant to be done with a significant other, they can also be done with friend or relative. If you have the time, go through these questions and then spend four minutes of staring into each others eyes. If your time is limited, just do the staring part. Do you experience a change in intimacy and closeness? (The list of questions can be found here.)
Perhaps talking to someone for 50 minutes and staring at the in complete silence for four minutes is not for you. Go find a picture of Jesus that resonates with you (or Google one) and stare into Jesus’ eyes. What do you experience? Re-read the scripture text. Does any part of the text become more fully alive to you?