The homilist compared Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture to the readings at the close of the Easter season: leaving a message that matters, a bit of wisdom about living, fragments of memories to fill the awful void of absence. The last words to remember: “Love one another.”
There is a tenderness in the phrasing, a cultural milieu to be recalled. But there is also a deep and powerful question. What exactly does “love one another” mean? What does it entail? Excuse? Encourage? Empower? Is it about engagement with each other? Is it about attachment? Bonding? Building up or breaking down? Believing? Discovering the best of what is in each other and challenging the worst that is in each of us? Is it active or theoretical? Passive or prominent? Individualized or institutional?
In those heady days after the Resurrection and before the Ascension, Jesus’ visibility, his attentiveness to the Apostles and to the moments of mystery, open a gateway to exploring the phrase. His was a tender embrace of the doubtful Thomas, a comfort to the mourning Magdalene, and an encouragement to the fearful Peter. But there was also the dramatic appeal to the crusading Saul followed by the license given to choose to believe or not. There is the gentleness of conversation in the Emmaus story, and a reveal that really mattered in the breaking of the bread. Each and every instance is a revelation about what it might actually mean to “love one another”, about ways to make love happen.
Love is a dynamic choice, something wildly powerful in the wilderness of human life. Love demands something of self; it is a gift to other. Love is an acknowledgement of both the reality of human limitiations and of the spiritual dimension which transcends and transforms that humanity. Love is sourced in the divine, and it is exchanged and nurtured in human relationships. Love accepts refusal, but it does not give up. It does not descend into bitterness or hate speech, labelling or vandalism. Love walks tall in the smallest of circumstances; love is the divine birthed in human moments and exchanges. It merits nurturing and care, time and deliberate purpose. And in every instance of appearance after the Resurrection, Jesus’ story manifests all of this.
The story itself, spelled out in the lines of the New Testament, can be confined to the realm of the theological or the ancient or the irrelevant. And yet, it is steadily and consistently repeated over and over in each generation. It finds echoes in ordinary lives and in myserious masterpieces, in symphonies and great novels, in the fates of superheroes and the endless battle between good and evil. And so the Gospel lays out the pattern JK Rowling brought to life in the classic Harry Potter stories, and countless others have captured in scintillating plot lines.
Ultimately, the story matters; Last Words matter. They linger with the hearers, touch the viewers and readers. If the words are ours, if they fall to us, it is ours too to begin to grasp the significance and the challenge, to spend the time wondering and wanting clarity and winning some understanding. “Love one another” are words worth thinking about.