Being kind to others is the best way to find God … and peace quickly follows
The issuing of two commandments by Jesus, make more sense when we remember that: we are each made in the image and likeness of God. But why two commandments?
In any great development (eg. an institution), we usually produce a nice document that proclaims the aim/ object of the institution PLUS the methodology to achieve the aim.
We could say the aim and object of life is to love God. Although many people feel the presence of God in their lives, it’s difficult to love God when we say: God cannot be seen.
So Jesus makes the aim of life concrete and real. When we love our neighbour we are loving God. But which neighbour? The ones we know, the ones we like, or what?
So, we need to look even deeper into the Love God bit. Most of us are humble enough to know that we are “naughty” from time to time. But we know that God still loves us, although his anger might flare out against us if we are really, really “naughty.” Just think of life with mum and dad: they often became frustrated with us as kids, but they never stopped loving us.
The real challenge in loving God comes when our neighbour is someone we don’t know or we don’t like! In the first reading the Prophet says: “You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan”; and “You must not molest the stranger or oppress him…”; and then “If you lend money to… any poor man among you, you must not… demand interest from him.”
Orphan usually represents children: with no security, property and no rights. They are very vulnerable to abuse, being misused and going without shelter and food.
Widows (usually older women), represent women (and men) who are vulnerable, with no one to protect, or provide, for them: women usually had no property rights or finances.
Today we can interpret these categories to mean: orphans as street boys and children from poor families (especially single parent, homeless or families with domestic violence); and, widows as refugees, migrants and street people (homeless).
It is helpful to remind ourselves what the word LOVE means: in Greek there are five descriptions or types of love, which are helpful to learn. However, for Christians the important meaning of love is this: love is a decision to choose what is best for the other person. It does not matter whether we like the person, or know the person: what does the other person need?
This can become very demanding for us and, as humans, we often look for excuses to avoid what the other person needs. Which explains why Jesus gave the First Commandment: to love God. It reminds us to choose to love the other because we love God: we appreciate what God has done for us.
But, even that explanation may not inspire us enough, so God reminds us that his anger may blaze out against us. St Paul, in the 2nd Reading, also challenges to look ahead: and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.”
How do we understand this God of love serving up retribution in the future? Perhaps it is easier to think about the ‘consequences’ of choosing not to love. For example:
1) parents who have little time for their children: a lifetime of loneliness awaits.
2) parents who beat their children: a lifetime of loneliness awaits.
3) children who neglect their parents in old age: a future of the same awaits them.
4) people who ignore the needs of a neighbour: live in fear of becoming poor/sick.
5) people who abuse women and children: a future of prison and humiliation awaits.
6) priests/religious who act like dictators: a future of loneliness is coming.
On the other hand, when we act like the boy in this story, we will live a life of inner joy:
a little boy packed a picnic lunch of sandwiches and two small drinks. He ran out the front door telling mum “I’m going to look for God.” After reaching a large park, he sat on a park bench and felt hungry. He pulled out a sandwich and started to eat; he then realised the old lady on the seat is dressed in poor clothes and looked hungry too. So he handed over one sandwich and they ate together, talking and laughing. Then he pulled out two drinks and handed one to the lady. After a while he left to go home, but decided to give the lady a hug. He ran off happy. At home, his mum asked: “did you find God?” “Oh, yes, “ he replied, “she’s a bit older than I expected.” Likewise the old lady entered a low cost café and met a friend. She said with a big smile: “I met God today. He was younger than I expected!”
Let’s look for the times God has touched us today; when we acknowledge them, peace grows!
By Gerard Conlan, OMI