Dear Brothers and Sisters,
One of the readings this week recounted how God through the prophet Jeremiah told the people of Jerusalem to surrender to the Babylonians and move to their country where they would be safe. If they did not surrender, they would be killed. Jeremiah told them build your houses and your gardens and have your children marry other Jews and one day God will take you back to Jerusalem. In seventy years those who listened to God, were sent back to Jerusalem with their families and their belongings. The others who did not listen were blinded or killed by the Babylonians. Imagine how happy the people were who obeyed and saw how faithful God and Jeremiah had been to them. They flourished in this new country and this Exile was a turning point for all of Israel. They realized how disobedient they had become and this led them to change their ways. To love we first have to be loved. And with God we need to have a real, concrete experience of that love, like these people had.
God knows that we don’t love him with all our heart and mind and strength. He knows that we cannot do so. Only if he lives in us can we love in this way. So don’t take this first commandment to love as a demand. We cannot do it. It is a promise that we will love God one day with all our heart and soul and strength, if he is with us. Jesus Christ is the only one who fulfills this Shema, which is what the Jews call these two great commandments. Christ did it especially in his passion. A sword pierced his heart and blood and water came out. A crown of thorns entered his head, his mind and all his strength was nailed to the cross so that he could not move. He died of suffocation. He is the only one who loved the Father with all his heart and mind and strength. And one day you will also be able to do the same, but not on your strength, only if you have the spirit of Christ.
And love your neighbor as yourself. If you have a nice house and two cars and three jackets do you share them with your neighbor? Who is your neighbor? As we know from the gospel of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor is the one in need. A traveler who was stripped of his clothes and lying half dead and a Samaritan stopped to pick him up, to take him to an inn (an image of the Church), anoint him with oil and feed him. This poor man represents humanity. Many today are stripped of any kind of supernatural sense that God loves them and knows them better than they know themselves, and acts in their life. Even their bodies are half dead from addictions and sufferings we cannot imagine. He is our neighbor. He or she is the one in need.
Let us ask God many time a day to give us this ability to love in this was. Christ-like love is the only new and unique thing that a Christian can bring to the world. Others can be generous and patient and hard working, but Christians are the only ones who can have this Christ-like love for God and for the other. This is what changes us and the world.