My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As we know, the words of Jesus that we just heard proclaiming the passage of the Gospel are some of the most famous words in the Gospel.
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind. …
[And] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.
We all know these words very well, and of course, they’re beautiful. But sometimes, it seems to me, that we can forget — just how powerful these words are meant to be.
What Jesus is saying today — is that love is the reason for which God made the world. He’s also saying that love is the meaning of our lives. God made us to love and to be loved.
But Jesus reminds us that love is the greatest “commandment.” Commandment. Have you ever wondered about that? How can God “command” us to love?
It’s interesting. It kind of doesn’t seem to makes sense. You cannot “command” someone to love. You cannot force someone to love. Love, as we understand, is a powerful emotion! Your either “feel” love — or you do not. People “fall” in love. You cannot “tell” them to do that.
It’s interesting, isn’t it?
Right there, we need to see the difference. Between what Jesus means by love and what the world means by love.
For Jesus, love is more than a passion. For Jesus, love is an act of the will. It is much more than words or a feeling. Love, real love, means that we need to make a decision and we need to do something about it.
And the first reading we heard today, from the Book of Exodus, shows us what love looks like in action:
You shall not … oppress an alien …
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan …
If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors …
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him.
I am sure that we all noticed, that all these examples are people who are vulnerable in society. The immigrants and refugees; widows and orphans; the poor.
So, for Jesus, love is not only a relationship that we have with one another. Christian love — it’s true — is personal, but it is also social. It is the responsibility that we have for others in society, for the promotion of the common good.
Love means making things right, when we find things are wrong. Love means bringing justice, where we find injustice.
In today’s passage of the Gospel, Jesus says: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But Jesus knows that there are people who are not easy to like and who are not easy to love. This is where Jesus connects the love of God and the love of neighbor. But Jesus knows that we cannot really say that we love God if we do not love our neighbor.
One of the saints said that “We love God as much as we love the one we love the least.”
It’s challenging. But then, at the same time, when we reflect on what is it that we need in order to love God more and love our neighbor more, it’s like anything else in our lives — the more we do it, the more it becomes a habit.
Practice love and by the grace of God, it will become real in your life. In my life. The more you love, the more you are going to see the world with the eyes of Christ. The more you are going to think about other people with the mind of Christ.
When we make that decision to love, then we start to see other people not as a threat or a competitor. We start seeing our neighbors as persons who are just like ourselves — with the same hopes and dreams and desires. We stop seeing others, and we start seeing our brothers and sisters.
We start discovering that each one of them, each one of our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, are the image of God.
And when we love our neighbor, we make God present in the world. We make God real for people. Because Christian love is always a missionary love — Jesus is counting on our love to change the world.
So when we think how can we — as Pope Francis is asking us to do — be missionary disciples, the first thing is obviously growing in the love of God, and then loving our brothers and sisters in reality. Starting with our families, the people around us — the people at work, everywhere. Especially the ones that are most in need.
There is a story of St. Mother Teresa that I like a lot. She was caring for this woman she found on the streets — She was comforting her, cleaning her up, putting bandages on her wounds.
And the whole time, the woman kept yelling at her. She kept saying to Mother Teresa: “Why are you doing this?”
And Mother Teresa said, “My God taught me.” Then the woman said, “Who is this god?”
And Mother Teresa responded: “You know my God. My God is called Love.”
My dear brothers and sisters, this is our God, too. Our God is called Love. And our God calls us to love others — as he loves them. As he loves us.
St. Paul says in today’s second reading: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord.”
This is a beautiful description of what it means to be a Christian. We are called to imitate the love of the Lord. We are called to live as an example for others.
It is a beautiful challenge and it is a great joy — to love God and to love one another.
So this week, as we go about our daily lives and carry out our daily duties, let us try to put more love into our lives and into the world.
So let us try to live like the saints — doing little things, with great love.
We can start with those who are closest to us — the people we live with, our families; the people we work with and go to school with. Let’s try to be a little more patient this week, a little more understanding, a little more forgiving, a little more loving with one another.
And then we can say freely that we love God with all our heart, with our mind, and with all our soul.
Let us ask Our Blessed Mother Mary for intercession. May she help us this week to do little acts of love, little acts of mercy and kindness. For God. And for our neighbors.
1. Readings: Exod. 22:20-26; Ps. 18:2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thess. 1:5c-10; Matt. 22:34-40.