|Charity at the Main Building of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila|
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
The Lord Jesus was asked: Which commandment in the law is the greatest? He was asked for a commandment but the Lord responded with two: the commandment to love God with all one’s being and the commandment to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. In this way, the Lord tells us in very clear terms what charity or love really is. In a world where love is a much abused word, the teaching of the Lord on the two greatest commandments is very important.
First of all, we have to say that the commandments to love God and neighbor are based on the reality that God is love. It is God who can reveal to us what love is because He is love. We learn how to love because God loved us first. Love is authentic only if it imitates the love of God for us. How does God love us? He loves us by giving us himself: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…True love is self-giving. It is self sacrificing. ”Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1.)
Love is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. God loved us first. We did not love him so that we may be loved by him. He loved us first and because of this, we learn to love him in return. He loved us by giving himself to us. Thus, we can only love him by giving ourselves to him: all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. Everything we have and everything we are comes from him. Therefore, we love him with everything we have and everything we are.
Because of this, it is only God whom we should love above all. It is only God whom we should love for his own sake. All other loves are motivated by this response to God’s love for us. I am able to love my neighbor because God loves him in the way he loves me. I love myself because God loves me: “It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend.” (Deus Caritas Est, 8.)
My relationship with God enables me to see others in the way God sees them. My relationship with Him helps me see the image of God in every man. On the other hand, my love for God becomes real when I love my neighbor. For how can I love the God whom I do not see if I do not love the neighbor I see? “Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbour from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbour are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. No longer is it a question, then, of a ‘commandment’ imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others. Love grows through love. Love is ‘divine’ because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28).” (Deus Caritas Est, 8.)
Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!