The obligation to love poses the question:“Whom should I love?” Jesus teaches: “Loveyour neighbor.” But who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is everyone who is in some way in touch with us, even when we seldom or never see that person, because he or she lives far away from us, although we provide for their needs in some way.
Every person who crosses the path of our lives gives us an opportunity to love. Love does not necessarily entail financial output on our behalf; it is a caring for others, which can be manifested in many different ways. When we pay attention to the person who talks to us, when we are concerned for another’s life, when we spend time with them, when we cannot resolve the other’s problems, but we carefully listen, then we show love.
Love of neighbor is the only thermometer that we have to measure our love for God. That is the reason that Jesus insists on love. It is because of this that Saint John affirms in his first letter: Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen (1 John 4:20).
More and more, as we meditate on love we realize that it is not possible to love God if we cannot love our neighbor. It seems as though we have forgotten this; perhaps this is the reason that Pope Francis so often emphasizes this gospel teaching.
Pope Francis said that brotherly love and the love of God are inseparable and complement each other because they are “two sides of the same coin. . .You cannot love God without loving your brothers [and sisters], and you cannot love your brothers [and sisters] without loving God.” The Pope insists that religious life and prayer cannot be separated from the relationship with neighbors and brothers and sisters because “love is the measure of faith, and faith is the soul of love.” He also highlights that it is every Christian’s mission to “care for the weak, such as foreigners, orphans and widows,” since God can be found in them. “Because in the face of every brother, especially the smallest, the most vulnerable, defenseless and needy, is the image of God. And we must ask ourselves: when we meet one of these. . . are we capable of recognizing in him the face of God?” (Angelus Oct 27, 2014)
At the same time, we should increase our efforts to became close to God through prayer and keeping the commandments, we need to remember that the “first and greatest” commandment is to love God and our neighbor: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law” (Rm 13:8-10).
The gospel story today concludes with a simple question: “‘Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Well we know the answer now, next… let us go and do the same!