Surely there have been those times when you have heard or said what was Jesus’ response to a Pharisees’ question:
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?
Jesus answered 'You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind....
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Today we t take a few moments to consider how we answer that question if it were our responsibility to answer it. Have these words of Jesus ever truly impacted your life? Can you answer: “Yes, these words have changed my life.”
I should honestly answer if and how this particular teaching of Jesus has changed any part of my life? Surely many feel a burden of laws is placed upon their shoulders when they seriously consider “I believe in the Catholic Church.” For these individuals it may seem scarcely different form the weighty laws put upon the life style of Jewish believers. It was the burden that led the Pharisee to ask the question. Perhaps it may be the same reason that leads modern day Catholics to question the consequences of the Church’s teaching today. Obviously the root concern in their questions is personal salvation: what do I have to do to avoid those “pains of hell”?
For some the reciting of certain prayers and/or attend an “obligation bound” Sunday liturgy may seem to satisfy God’s expectations and Church teachings. Jesus, however, is teaching this: by making a strong, challenging change by linking loving God and loving neighbor. His answer is clear: religious observances don’t quite fulfill the expectations don’t quite fulfill the expectations. I read and interesting observation recently: a person does not seek to find God through others. Rather one finds and loves God in others. And who are these others? Jesus again is clear: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the prisoners. Jesus says he is one with all these who have a genuine need of love. For him it is a love that manifests itself in compassion. While on a visit to South Korea, Pope John Paul II made a quiet visit to a small island off shore to a large building that housed some 800+ lepers. Yes, lepers. He took the time not only to visit the building but to personally speak, touch and even kiss the disfigured men and women. Today how do we treat the “outcast” in our society: the poor, the homeless, the drug addict, the victims of AIDS, especially children born with the disease? How do we treat those who are of a different sexual orientation, those who have different political ideologies?
How can we effectively incorporate this “love of neighbor” into our lives? Begin with trying to genuinely love the person you call “me”! Yes, unless we can truly and honestly learn who I am and as well the person God wants me to be, loving “my neighbor” will be a genuine challenge. When I accept myself totally as I am, with all the dents in my armor, not hiding them, it is then that I can reach out to my neighbor, regardless of his or her condition. And here it is that I begin to know what it means to love Go because God is the heart, the center of love. There in love of the true me and others can I experience God -- there I have found the true meaning of “God is love.”