THE words of the preacher keep pounding in my head “Do I compartmentalize people according to how different they are from me?”
He was exhorting a small number of his audience at Mass, as well as a larger listening audience during the live streaming that “loving God and loving neighbor is inseparable because one is the result of the other.”
“If I cannot love my neighbor, there is something wrong in my relationship with God – that relationship with God is brought into question” cautioned the preacher.
“If I see my brother and cannot digest my brother, the way he acts, things he says or the attitudes he has, and I just cannot accept it, there is something wrong in my relationship with God,” he suggested.
“If I love God, the natural consequence of it is I will love my neighbor, and it is nearly impossible to genuinely love your neighbor without loving God” was how Jesus saw it, implied the preacher.
Especially in these times, it is something we need to ask ourselves when we speak about what is happening in the US, when we speak about the racism rows that keep cropping up.
He prompted his listeners, somewhere in our heart, somewhere in our mind, it is good to ask ourselves “Aren’t we racist as well?” when someone who thinks differently from me or who has a spirituality different from mine, or has an approach different from me – what is our attitude towards him?
If I have an attitude where I keep aside, or compartmentalize one particular set of people because of how they act or what they do, then there is somewhere within my heart a racist line as well, warned the impassioned priest..
He continued, this thing that is happening in the US is visible; what is happening within my heart, no one knows. I see a set of people and the first thing I think to myself “Oh, this is how they are”. I have already found that they are one set of people I cannot relate with. I have trouble letting love flow into them. Do we have trouble letting love flow into one set of people? Then there is something wrong in my relationship with God.
He pleaded, “Whoever they are, whatever they do; if love is held back from my heart towards “my brother, my sister”; if they as human beings, irrespective of what their faith, religion, culture, ideologies are, if love is held back within my heart; then there is something wrong in my relationship with God because the natural consequence of my relationship with God is my natural relationship with my brother and my sister.”
Pope Francis once famously asked in one of his homilies “Who is my neighbor? Who must I love as myself? My parents? My friends? My fellow countrymen? Those who belong to my religion? Who is my neighbor?”
The Pope responded, the Lord will say to us “Do you remember that time on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? That man who was half dead was me. Do you remember? That hungry child was me. Do you remember? That immigrant who many wanted to drive away, that was me. That grandparent who was alone, abandoned in nursing homes, that was me. That sick man, alone in the hospital, who no one visited, that was me.
Echoing the preacher’s passionate heart for the neighbor, the Pope summed up that God, who is love, created us to love so that we can love others while remaining united with Him. It would be misleading to claim to love our neighbor without loving God; and it would also be deceptive to claim to love God without loving our neighbor. The two dimensions of love, for God and for neighbor, in their unity characterize the disciple of Christ. May we bear witness in our everyday life to this luminous lesson.