Loving God and Loving NeighborWhen our Blessed Lord faced various religious and political groups of His day, many challenged His words or tried to trip Him up using their own. How did our Blessed Lord respond? He reminded them, as He does us that it was not about taking sides, winning arguments or successes with changing the opinions of those you disagree with. Instead it is about God’s commandment to love Him and our neighbor with everything we got – with our whole mind, heart and soul.
To respond to this commandment to love, where do we start? Do we even know how to love? It is sometimes easier to equate loving God and our neighbor with how we feel towards them. But feelings come and go. Feelings and emotions are easily confused, provoked, stimulated and even exploited.
To seek what is true, to discern what is good, to follow what is right, begins with the recognition that God has given us commandments. In ordinary human language, this translates that we recognize that there are universal moral standards about what is right and wrong. That is not a feeling. That’s a fact. These commandments, not only guide us towards authentic relationships with God and our neighbor. They also protect us from self-deception and from harmful relationships.
In a culture that often prides itself in being “tolerant”, “open-minded” and “nonjudgmental”, it is ironic that there is so much intolerance, closed-mindedness and even, active hostility towards the slightest suggestion that there are, in fact, moral absolutes about what is right and what is wrong, especially with regard to our behavior.
Sometimes, when that is pointed out, a rebuttal is often heard “Who are you to judge?” In other words, “You have no right to make moral judgments.”
But what if I responded, “I do, in fact, have the right to make moral judgments because I am a rational human being, aware of certain fundamental principles of logical and moral reasoning. I judge myself capable and qualified. In fact if you think that I have no right to make a judgment, then why are you judging me?”
Now, of course, this very ‘heady” stuff! Often times it only serves to get people more emotional, and that defeats even the premise of appealing to reason.
And most of us do not find ourselves engaged in the world simply at a philosophical or intellectual level. Our relationships are often “messy”. We are forever conscious that we are incapable of loving perfectly. Only God can. We can’t. We experience, not only the sins of the world, but we are always conscious of our own sinfulness, our own weakness and vulnerability. This is not an excuse to “dumb down” how we find ourselves, or as an excuse to choose the path of least resistance as we walk through an incredibly complex world in which we are faced with many challenges.
To be like Christ, to be Christ-like, we will find ourselves tempted in the desert, pushed around by the crowd, moved at times with compassion, cornered by opponents, forced to respond to situations not of our making, asked to give help, having to teach, and looked to for advice. So how do we love God with everything we have and love our neighbor when we find ourselves in the midst of the unrelenting storms of this world?
Well, what did Christ do to the storms of his day, whether He found himself on a boat with his disciples or in the city encircled by his opponents? He silenced them.
It is this silence, a sacred silence, which we too must seek. When you love someone, it is often enough to simply gaze upon their face without a word said or a response made – to hold them simply in your heart, to think of them with fondness, to lift them up gently in prayer.
God often speaks to us in whispers. When we find ourselves in the midst of the storm, allow Him to place His finger gently over your lips – hush! Only then can we better hear the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd and the inner still voice of our conscience, and not be afraid to allow it, with the help of the Church’s wisdom, to temper our hearts, purify our souls and form our minds.