On the Love for God and Neighbor

«Love is the measure of faith, and faith is the soul of love»

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer, to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square today. 

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today’s Gospel reminds us that the Divine Law can be summed up in the love for God and for neighbor. The evangelist Matthew says that some Pharisees agreed to put Jesus to the test (cfr 22, 34-35). One of these, an expert of the Law, asks Him this question: “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (v. 36). Jesus, citing the book of Deuteronomy, responds: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (vv. 37-38). He could’ve stopped there. Instead, Jesus adds something else that was not asked of by the expert of the Law. He said: “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39). Even this second commandment is not invented by Jesus, but rather taken from the Book of Leviticus. Its newness consists precisely in putting together these two commandments – the love for God and love for the neighbor –  revealing that they are inseparable and complementary, they are two sides of the same coin. You cannot love God without loving your neighbor and you can’t love your neighbor without loving God. Pope Benedict has left us a beautiful commentary about this in his first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est (nn. 16-18).

In fact, the visible sign that a Christian can show to give witness to the world, to others, to their family, of the love of God is the love of the brethren. The commandment of love to God and neighbor is the first not because it is the first in the list of commandment. Jesus does not place it in the top, but at the center because it is the heart from which everything has to start and from which everyone must return to and reference.

Already in the Old Testament the need to be holy, in the image of God who is holy, included the duty to take care of the most vulnerable such as the foreigner, the orphan, the widow (cfr Ex. 22, 20-26). Jesus fulfills this law of the covenant, He who unites in Himself, in his flesh, divinity and humanity into one single mystery of love.

Now, in the light of the words of Jesus, love is the measure of faith, and faith is the soul of love. We can never separate religious life from the service of the brothers and sisters, to those concrete brethren we meet. We can never divide prayer, the encounter with God in the Sacraments, from listening to others, from being close to their lives, especially from their wounds. Remember this: love is the measure of faith. How much do you love? And each one should respond to this: How is your faith? My faith is seen in how I love. Faith is the soul of love.

In the midst of the dense forest of rules and regulations – the legalisms of yesterday and today – Jesus makes an opening that allows us to see two faces: the face of the Father and that of the brothers. He does not give us two rules or two precepts, but two faces. No! Not precepts or rules, He gives us two faces! Actually, it is one face: that of God that is reflected in the faces of so many, because in the face of every brother and sister, especially the smallest, the fragile, the helpless and the needy, the very image of God is present. We should ask ourselves when we meet one of these brothers or sisters: Are we able to recognize in them the face of God? Are we capable of doing this?

In this way, Jesus offers every man and woman the fundamental criteria on which to base their lives. But above all, He gives us his Spirit, which allows us to love God and neighbor like Him, with a free and generous heart. Through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, let us open ourselves to receive this gift of love, to walk always in this law, of two faces that are one face, in the law of love.

After the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father said the following:

Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday in Sao Paolo Brazil, Mother Assunta Marcheta was proclaimed Blessed. She was born in Italy and co-founder of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo – the Scalabrinis. She was a nun who was exemplary in the service of orphans, [and] of Italian immigrants. She saw Jesus present in the poor, in the orphans, in the sick, in the migrants. Let us give thanks to the Lord for this woman, a model of tireless missionary spirit and courageous dedication in the service of charity.

I affectionately greet the pilgrims from Italy and various countries, beginning with the devotees of Our Lady of the Sea from Bova Marina. I gladly welcome the faithful from Lugana in Sirmione, Usini, Portobuffolé, Arteselle, Latina and Guidonia; as well as those from Losanna (Switzerland), Marseille (France). A special thought goes to the Peruvian community of Rome who are here present with the sacred image of Our Lord of the Miracles.

I also greet the pilgrims from Schönstatt. I can see the image of Our Mother from here.  

I thank you all and affectionately greet you.

Please, pray for me. Do not forget. Have a Good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye.

[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
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