We can probably recite the Greatest Commandment from memory. But the measure of our observance is not in knowing the truth. It is in living the truth. Especially in this time of social turmoil and racial tension, our love for God and neighbor is put to the test. In theory we would naturally view the commandment from our personal perspective. How can God expect me to love “them”? And there are specific “thems” for each and every one of us. And it does go both ways. We are not just challenged to love those from whom we differ but also, and most significantly, those who are not inclined to love us back.
But the love Jesus speaks of is not a feeling. It is a decision of the will. It is a decision to desire the good of my neighbor. And not just the good I deem appropriate for my neighbor (because that can take a dark turn if we rely primarily on our own inclinations), but the good that God actually desires for them. I desire peace for my neighbor because God desires peace. I desire reconciliation for my neighbor because God desires reconciliation.
But sometimes it might happen that despite my desire for my neighbor’s good according to what God desires, my very presence prevents that good from becoming a reality. Since the good of my neighbor and not my own is my desire, and it can only be achieved by my absence, I will need to love my neighbor from a distance. My neighbor, not I, will determine when my presence is no longer an obstacle to their good. Until then, I will sincerely desire their good from a distance hoping that some day that distance will be bridged and that hurt will heal. Love means I will do what is within my power to heal rather than hurt, to reconcile rather than provoke, to give the benefit of the doubt than to presume the worst.
In the gospel of John, Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as he loves us. It appears to be a higher measure than the passage we read today, that we love our neighbor only as ourselves. But if we heard the first part right, that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, the bar is set. There is no other measure to which we will be held to account.
This mass was offered for the repose of +Albert Weiner.
Rolo B Castillo © 2020