Citing the day’s Gospel from the 12th chapter of Mark, Pope Francis on November 4, 2018, focused on the connection between love of God and love of neighbor.
His reflections came before praying the noonday Angelus with an estimated 20,000 rain-soaked pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. In the Gospel, Jesus replies when a scribe asks him which is the greatest commandment:
Jesus replied The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.
“Choosing these two Words addressed by God to his people and, putting them together, Jesus taught once and for all that love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable, more than that, they sustain one another.,” the Holy Father explained. “Although put in sequence, they are the two faces of a single medal: lived together they are the believer’s true strength!
“To love God is to live of Him, for Him, for what He is and for what He does. And our God is donation without reservations; He is unlimited forgiveness; He is a relationship that promotes and makes one grow. Therefore, to love God means to invest one’s energies every day to be His collaborators in serving our neighbor without reservations, in seeking to forgive unlimitedly and in cultivating relationships of communion and fraternity.”
Pope Francis went on to give greater definition to who a neighbor is and what it means to be a neighbor. It is not someone we “pre-select” but whoever we encounter. And it means offering attention and “fraternal closeness” – not just a meal.
“Today’s Gospel invites us all to be projected not only to the urgencies of our poorest brothers but especially to be attentive to their need of fraternal closeness, the meaning of life and tenderness.,” Francis concluded. “This challenges our Christian communities: it’s about avoiding the risk of being communities that live of many initiatives but few relationships; the risk of being ‘service station’ communities, but of little company, in the full and Christian sense of this term.
“God, who is love, created us for love so that we can love others remaining united to Him. It would be illusory to pretend to love our neighbor without loving God, and it would also be illusory to pretend to love God without loving our neighbor. The two dimensions of love, of God and of neighbor, characterize in their unity the disciple of Christ.”