This Lent we invited you to go on mission, to take a spiritual checkup of the depth of your love for God. We have been using this key passage from Scripture to guide our reflection:
And one of [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40 (emphasis added)
During the first four weeks of Lent, we examined the first and great commandment (1st week, 2nd week, 3rd week, 4th week). Today, we look at the second commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39).
Jesus commanded His disciples to “Love one another even as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). It is through the love of Christ that we can love our neighbor, even the one that we find most irksome. Jesus also told His disciples, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (19:26). To be able to love as God loves, we must know God intimately. St. John the Evangelist tells us, “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that love for neighbor fulfills all the Commandments:
The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Obedience to God in all the Commandments is the measure of our love of God and neighbor. Sin is turning our back on God. Sin not only hurts ourselves but it also hurts others. Thankfully, the “Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps 103:8). The Psalmist continues “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12). When we fail, we have access to God’s mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we are truly sorry, repent of our wrongs, Jesus forgives us of our sins. Through the grace of the Sacrament, we are renewed and have our hearts rejoined to the heart of God.
The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Scripture paints a dire picture of the consequences of ignoring our neighbor…
“There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. ’But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31
The rich man did not know Lazarus, but God did. Are you like the rich man, ignoring the person nearest to you in need of your love, care, and concern? In telling the parable, Jesus prophesies His own resurrection from the dead. He teaches us that love of God and love of neighbor are the two greatest commandments. Yet many are not convinced and risk suffering the fate of the rich man in this parable. Our love of neighbor, including our enemies, is the measure of our love for God. Lent is a time of fasting, praying, and giving alms. These Lenten practices will break us out of our self-centeredness. As you fast and pray, ask God to show you the “neighbor” that is in most need of mercy.
May you “love others as Jesus has loved you” (cf. Jn 13:34).
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2196:2; internet: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2.htm (accessed March 18, 2021).