Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Love of Our Neighbour

1. The Gospel not only commands us to love God above all things, but also to love our neighbour as ourselves (Cf. Mt. 13:35-40). The Christian love of our neighbour flows necessarily from the love of God. Our Creator loves all men as His own sons. Therefore we ought to love on another as brothers, even as Our Lord loves us. We should see in our neighbour, especially if he is in need, the person of Christ himself, our elder brother, the first-born among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).

If men sincerely loved on another, not merely as brothers, but as much as they love themselves, what problems would be solved! Who can say how many evils would be abated and how many sorrows would be assuaged? To transform the world it would be enought to put into practice the first great commandment of the Gospel, which is the commandment of charity. Admittedly, the world would not become an earthly paradise, for any such Utopia is an impossibility. But it would become a dignified dwellingplace of brothers loving and helping one another. Love is the fulfilment of the Law, (Rom. 13:10) St. Paul very truly says. Have charity, which is the bond of perfection. (Col. 3:14)

2. But who really loves his neighbour as if he were himself? Only the Saints. Jesus loved us not only as much as He loved Himself, but much more than this, because He gave His life and His own precious blood for our salvation. The Saints, who lived the life of Christ and followed His example, saw Jesus in all their fellowmen. Therefore they loved them as themselves and even more than themselves. One could cite thousands of instances of heroic charity in the lives of the Saints. The example of St. Paul will suffice, however. He said that his life was so much the life of Christ that it was not he himself who was living any longer, but Christ in him. But he also claimed to be continually driven by charity, so far as to desire even separation from Christ if that would save or help his brothers (Rom. 9:3). Do we possess this sincere and active love of our neighbour? Let us examine oursleves in this regard. Let us remember that if we are lacking in this charity towards our brothers in Jesus, we are not genuine Christians.

3. A few hundred yards from the centre of a big city one often finds groups of hovels in which large numbers of families are living, herded together in poverty. There in the winter time these poor people suffer from the cold and damp. Often their homes are badly roofed and they have not even a loaf of bread to kill the pangs of hunger. Not very far away there are luxurious mansions and expensive villas ... and up and down the stress drift splendidly upholstered cars, carrying men and women for whom the only thing in life that matters is pleasure.

"Love your neighbour as yourself," the Gospel says. How far we still are from the realisation of this command. Men would need to go to these poor hovels to do the Spiritual Exercises. They would need to live in these places for at least a month. Many ideas would be changed and many hearts transformed if this were done. The slums, cabins, caves, and other hovels in which men have to live, bear sad testimony to the fact that the Gospel has not yet been understood by man, and that Christian charity has still a long way to go. Consider before God if you are responsible, even in some small way, for this wretched state of affairs. From the resolution of contributing as far as possible to the relief of so much want and suffering.