The demands of love are straightforward, but that is not to say they are easy: Love your neighbor as God loves you.
The commandment was given explicitly by Jesus but God had already made it clear from the very beginning that we are to care for each other. All the way back in the book of Genesis, God asked Cain: “Where is your brother?”
Pope Francis paraphrased the lesson in a recent homily, rephrasing it as if the words were addressed directly to us today in 2019 and taking the opportunity to point out where we often go wrong in our thinking.
The Holy Father said,
“Where is your brother who is hungry?” the Lord asks us. And to save our skin, we answer, “Surely he is at lunch with the parish Caritas group that is feeding him.”
“What about the other, the sick…?” “Oh well, he is in the hospital!” “But there’s no place in the hospital! And did you give him any medicine?” “But, that’s his business, I cannot meddle in the life of others … and besides, he will have relatives who give him medicine “. And so I wash my hands of him.
“Where is your brother, the prisoner?” “Ah, he deserves and is paying for it.” We are tired of seeing so many criminals on the street.
The temptation to indifference is very strong. Even though we might not act as violently as Cain did towards his brother Abel, our tendency is to excuse ourselves from responsibility and to look away from the needs of others. It is so much easier to send “thoughts and prayers” than to become involved in offering material help.
The Way of the Gospel, though, compels us to love not just with words, but in deeds (1 John 3:18). As he so often does, the Holy Father preached the need to come close enough to our brothers and sisters in need that we know their faces, and their names.
Come and feed my lambs, said Jesus to Peter. Come and follow me, He said to each of His disciples. Come and sit at my feet, He invited Mary and Martha.
The invitation of the Gospel is the same as ever: Come. Come and see the face of Christ in the weak, the poor, the hungry, the prisoners and the sick. Come!