Love of God, love of neighbour

first_img Tweet FaithLifestyleLocalNews Love of God, love of neighbour by: – October 22, 2011 Sharing is caring! 206 Views   no discussions Sharecenter_img Image via: gracegravy.blogspot.comLove of God and love of neighbour are commandments established in our minds as a summary of Christian life. Jesus articulated it on the occasion when he was challenged by the Pharisees and Sadducees. The nature of the challenge tells us something of the significance of the summary.Rabbis counted roughly 613 distinct commandments in the law, 248 positive and 365 negative. What the challenge to Jesus amounted to was: “Let’s see how good you are. Which of these 6oo odd commandments is the most important.” That’s the background to Jesus’ choice, and it underlines not only the overriding importance of these two commandments (and not others), but also (what Jesus calls) their “resemblance.”Both commandments speak of the priority of love. Love, of course, is a slipepry word, capable of meaning whatever one wants. We must give the notion some clarity and body. To love is to surrender oneself to, to put one’s complete trust in, to choose to please. In loving God were are to love like this, and with all our hearts, minds, and souls. One way of coming afresh at this priority is to ask oneself from the other end, so to speak, what is it that I surrender myself to with my all, and then ask: is this the God that Jesus was speaking of?Once we get the God matter settled, we are free to love our neighbour, again with our all. That is the point of the “resemblance.” Our neighbor doesn’t get leftovers.If I love God, I must also love like God, and that is why I love my neigbhor. The New Testament underlines this connection as inseparable. The first letter of St. John tells us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 Jn 4:20-21).” Note also the order in which St. John puts the matter. It is in loving my visible neighbour that I love the invisible God. Why is this? It is because the neighbour is made “in the image of God.” St. Matthew underlines this further in his Last Judgment scene (chapter 25), where the neighbour in need turns out to be in fact the Lord incognito. “Whatever you did to the least of these…you did to me.”Jesus also did something further by elevating the love of neighbour in the way he did. For the Israelites of the Old Testament as for people of his day generally, love of neighbour meant love of one’s kin, not love of the stranger. This is why when he was asked “and who is my neighbour?” Jesus responded with a parable that began “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Note – just “a certain man.” Nothing is said of his nationality, culture, height, age, or occupation. Just “a certain man,” that is, “any” man. In other words, Everyman.What love of neighbour here also implies is that I must love the neighbour I make myself a neighbour to. In other words, love of neighbour is not simply contingent upon geography – the person “next to me.” It involves a choice, a reaching out on my part, an active orientation – to love. It’s something the Samaritan chose to do.Love of neighbour thus has, on the one hand, a practical, concrete aspect. As St. James wrote: “If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food, and one of you says ‘Go in peace; keep yourself warm and well fed,’ without attending to their material needs, what good is that?” (James: 2: 15). And secondly, a more total aspect in terms of how I look at and relate to the other. The best word for this outlook, I think, is respect. It’s a disposition that has nothing to do with particulars of the person, or whether or not I like them. What matters is how I see them, and just what I see when I do.By: Father Henry Charles PhD Share Sharelast_img

Leave your comment