|Moses and the 10 Commandments|
Love of God considered just in itself calls to mind our religious duty, our duty to attend Mass and to participate in the liturgical life of the Church. But it is incomplete without the second great commandment. Just to go to Church and worship God is incomplete if I ignore him in my neighbor. So I have to love my neighbor as myself too. To love my neighbor as myself completes the first commandment, it is not just an add-on to the first commandment.
If loving my neighbor is so important, if it in fact is a crucial part of loving God, then how do I do it? If this is so important, then it's something I want to get right. How do I love my neighbor? This important question has come up in Rome recently, at least implicitly. A couple weeks ago, various cardinals, bishops, and other experts gathered in Rome for what was called the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. A synod is a meeting of clergy and laity for a particular purpose, so basically, this was a meeting about how the Church addresses the challenges facing families in this day and age. If you followed this synod at all through the secular media, then you might have been led to think that this synod was entirely focused on how the Church reacts to homosexual couples and divorced and remarried couples. This couldn't be further from the truth. You may have been led to believe that there has been an earth-shattering shift in Catholic teaching on divorce or homosexuality. This couldn't be further from the truth. Never get your news about the Church from secular sources. They've been getting us wrong for decades and they continue to get us wrong today.
But what this synod was really about, and why we're talking about it today, is how we love our neighbor, no matter who they are or what position they find themselves in. And the thing we need to understand today is that if you love your neighbor, then you give them the truth, not lies. Truth comes from God, lies come from my own big fat ego that insists I know best. Truth can save your neighbor, lies do nothing more than make you feel good. So at this synod, the truth of marriage and family was affirmed once again: Marriage is forever, and if you are divorced and remarried outside the Church, you shouldn't receive Communion. Yet divorced people are still welcome in our Church. Marriage is between man and woman, protected and blessed by God as a sacrament for the good of the couple and their offspring, and yet people who experience same-sex attraction are still welcome in our Church.
If we love our neighbor as ourself, then we want to feed them with the truth, even when it at first sounds harsh. If I love my neighbor, then I have to tell him that if you're divorced and remarried outside the Church, you shouldn't receive Communion, and I have to tell him that the meaning of marriage is given by God, and not by us. If we don't love our neighbor, then we want to feed them with lies, like "Communion is cool if you're divorced and remarried," or "marry whoever you want as long as you're committed," because those lies make us feel good, it makes everybody like us, and no one is unhappy. But those lies don't draw my neighbor closer to God. Recently, the archbishop of Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput, was asked his opinion of the synod, even though he wasn't there. He said something (skip to 57:00 to hear it from him) that sounds harsh but actually contains in it a very important truth. Regarding the Church's acceptance of people with same-sex attraction, Archbishop Chaput said, "We have deep respect for people with same-sex attraction, but we can’t pretend that they’re welcome on their own terms. None of us are welcome on our own terms in the Church; we’re welcome on Jesus’ terms. That’s what it means to be a Christian—you submit yourself to Jesus and his teaching, you don’t recreate your own body of spirituality."
|The Good Samaritan|
St. Paul lived these two commandments well, and so in our second reading today he is explaining what happened because he did so. Because he loved God and loved his neighbors, those to whom he preached started to imitate him. He said today "You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord." Because Paul followed these two commandments, he stirred the faith of his followers into a living flame. He said later in the reading, "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth." Because Paul followed these commandments, his followers recognized the love of God in him and couldn't help but spread that love to the whole world.
For ourselves, if we consider our love of God under these two aspects: love of God and love of neighbor, those around us will start to recognize God in us. If we are not cold, uncaring Christians, but rather Christians with a deep and honest care for the world, and for helping the world come to know Christ in truth, then this world, each and every one of our neighbors, will be attracted to the presence of Christ and Christ's truth they see in us.