Love Your Neighbor a Yourself

Clergy Corner by Fr. Theo

Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus considered love of neighbor "his commandment," that which summarizes the whole Law. "This is my commandment: That you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12). When we speak of love of neighbor our minds turn immediately to works of charity, to the things that should be done for our neighbor: giving him to eat and drink, visiting him, in sum helping our neighbor. But this is an effect of love, it is not yet love. Before "beneficence" there is "benevolence," that is, before doing good there is willing good.

Charity must be sincere (literally, without hypocrisy) (Romans 12:9). Indeed, you can do charitable acts and give alms for motives that do not have anything to do with love: to impress, to look like a do-gooder, to earn heaven, to ease your conscience. It is not a matter of devaluing external works of charity, but of making sure that they have their basis in a genuine sentiment of love and benevolence.

This interior charity, or charity of the heart, is charity that can be exercised by all, and always, it is universal. It is not a charity that only a few -- the rich and the healthy -- bestow on others -- the poor and the sick -- to receive. All can give and receive. Furthermore, it is very concrete. It is a matter of beginning to look with a new eye upon the situations and people with which we live. What is this new eye? It’s simple: it is the eye with which we would like God to look upon us! The eye of mercy, of benevolence, of understanding.

When this happens all our relationships change. As if by a miracle, all the prejudice and hostility that kept us from loving a certain person falls away and we begin to open up to what he is in reality: a poor human being who suffers from his weaknesses and limits, like you, like everyone.

Tags: Clergy Corner, Fr. Theo

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