You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.
Romans 13: 9, 10
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Seven words. Strung together, their meaning is the banner cry of the poor, the heart of the meek, the offering of Real Presence, the fulfillment of accompaniment in God. This second commandment transcends God from within our interior being to the exterior – to the people of the earth. God is not only a being of the heavens, but God is among us. The second commandment calls us to the fulfillment of holiness as we extend the gift of God – the gift of God’s love – to each other. We are drawn into a larger drama, the earth and all within it, the city of God.
This love is not a frivolous flirt or a passionate fling or a convenience. This love-embodied through, with, and in God-is the makeup of our body, mind, and spirit. If enkindled through faith, it becomes a source of grace-the core of our soul. Self-giving love never exhausts itself because God’s love is never ending. We are called into communion with each other, into Eucharist. Father Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, OP, philosopher and theologian, said, “The Eucharist is a resume of our lives and a summary of the Christian message.”
So how do we love our neighbor as ourselves? Who are we that we should be so boastful as to embellish ourselves? That is not to what St. Paul refers. Sometimes it is hard to see beyond ourselves and see the need of others. As Catholics who are American, we can never forget that all we have has been given to us from God. When love directs our moral decisions, the interest of law in basic concerns, such as our relationship with family, sanctity of life, and security of property, is safeguarded. Love secures the best interests of all people. Through Baptism, we profess a commitment to apply the Gospel to the transformation of society.
Pope Francis said, “God is love! It is only on the path of love that you can know God. ‘Reasonable love’, ‘love accompanied by reason’. But love! And how can we love what we do not know? Love your neighbors”. This, the Pope said, is the doctrine of two Commandments: the most important is ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. He points out that “to get to the first we must ascend the steps of the second: that means that through our love for our neighbor we can get to know God, who is love. Only through loving can we reach love.” Pope Francis stressed, “This love is solid, strong and eternal. It is a concrete love made of works and not of words. To know God we must walk through life in love, love for our neighbor, love for those who hate us, love for all.”
What is the practical application of this ‘love for our neighbor’? It begins with a look at our family. With whom have we broken God’s covenant? Whom have we not forgiven? For whom would a phone call or a hug bring forth the joyous gush of God’s presence? Look at our neighbors, the people who live next to us; those who sit beside us in the pew during the celebration of Mass; those whom we greet at the grocery store; our co-workers. Have we offered them respect or have we coveted their possessions? Have we greeted them as Elizabeth greeted her cousin Mary, acknowledging the gift of God within her? Or have we ignored or disparaged them? Look beyond your street into the city, the state, the country, the world. How have we failed to do what is right and just? How has our silence caused violence, hunger, deprivation to be present? How has our fear caused the body of Christ to fall? How has our lack of prayer commissioned hate?
May our love for our neighbor transcend all objections so that God is ever in our midst.