September 2021 - Love your neighbor

 Can we love God without loving our neighbor? To love God with one’s heart, soul, and mind and to love one’s neighbor are the greatest commandments of all. We cannot say that we love God but hate our neighbor because we cannot separate these two commandments.

The Bible says in John 15:12-13: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In the Bible, God’s love is described as kind, patient, generous, merciful, unfailing, and unending. Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It is crystal clear that we should treat others as we would like to be treated.

I believe that human connection is a gift from God, and He created us to be in relationship with each other. I believe that He has designed us this way so that we can share each other’s burdens: “As iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens the wits of another” (Proverbs 27:17). At times, our encouragement and tough conversation helps others overcome the hardships in life, which then helps them become more like Christ.

I feel this is an important time to show our love towards our neighbors. The world has been scattered and shaken by the pandemic. Many are losing their lives, remaining helpless, becoming homeless, or departing from their loved ones.

At this time, we can love others by praying for them. Prayer is a powerful tool. It allows us to connect with God and pour out our hearts to God. Through prayer, our neighbors may find peace, comfort, strength, and provision.

We can love our neighbors through kind and gentle words which can soothe a troubled soul. Even when we cannot be present in person to stand by their side and wipe their tears, we can converse over the phone, send an email, or write a letter. Our encouragement goes a long way. For this, we need to spend some quality time with them so that they do not feel aloof and alone. We are so busy all the time, but let us care for our fellow men and women and be present in their sorrow and at times when they need a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on.

To help us understand the importance of loving thy neighbor, Jesus used the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Kindness begets kindness. When someone needs something the most, lend a hand. Don't forget that your children will follow in your footsteps. When they see you act as a good Samaritan, they will follow the same example. I learned from the good Samaritan that we should not walk away when our neighbor is having trouble.

In serving our neighbor, race should not be considered, just humanity - person to person. We should always manage our finances well so that we will be able to help those in need without any regret and expectation. Thus, we should be trustworthy and charitable. This shows to the world that we are the children of God.

More than 2,000 years have passed since Jesus walked on this world. Yet, Jesus is still in our hearts. Why?  It is because He did good all the time. He helped the poor. He was the personification of simplicity, humility, and kindness. We only exist once in this world. Let us live it like Jesus lived it. Lord, help us to love people as you love them. Lead us step by step into a greater understanding of what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Amen.

Fr. Dominic Savio, HGN, is administrator of Christ the Divine Mercy Parish in East Millinocket and St. Benedict Parish in Benedicta.