Jesus was asked to name the greatest of the commandments and he responded by naming two, both found in the Old Testament. Jesus brought them together and made them of equal importance: love of God and love of neighbour.
However often we hear the words of these two commandments, we are struck by the demands they place upon us. Jesus brings together the love of God and love of neighbour as something inseparable, like two sides of the one coin. We cannot have one without the other. Love of God whom we cannot see is, is false if it is not complimented by love of the people we rub shoulders with in our daily life.
Our neighbour is not thrown in as an afterthought because it is through people around about that God makes contact with us on a daily basis.
Also, the scriptures constantly remind us of the message than ‘anyone who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar’. Therefore, we cannot call ourselves Christian if we do not love our neighbour.
Loving our neighbour as we love ourselves is a necessary element in giving our hearts and minds to God and that is where the challenge lies. It is wonderful in theory but sometimes difficult to put into practice.
In the Gospel story, Jesus challenges us to take a good look at the nooks and crannies of our lives that are sometimes sealed off from God, those parts of our lives which we are sometimes uncomfortable with. To profess that we love God while remaining indifferent to the plight of others is a contradiction. We all want love to be like a thorn-less rose that is smooth and velvet to the touch. However, in following Christ, we find that love involves sacrifice and also the shadow of the cross. Love is, waiting upon the aged, nursing the sick, patching up quarrels and taking time to listen to the broken hearted.
Very few expect to find love in weakness, powerlessness and suffering and yet that is the heart of Christ’s message to the world. From his birth in a stable as one who was homeless, to his death on the cross as a common criminal, Jesus always identified with the spiritually, physical and materially poor of this world. The Gospel which we proclaim is not just an ideal to be admired but a way of life to be lived if we are to walk humbly with our God.
Heavenly Father look with pity and mercy on all who are in need this day. May your Spirit guide us always to walk in your ways with joy and peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Paul Andrew