Christ said it very clearly. When asked what the greatest commandment was, he simply said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And without being asked what the second greatest commandment was, he volunteered by saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Jn 12,30-31)
St. John, from whose gospel these words of Christ were recorded, reiterated the same idea when in his First Letter, he said: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” (4,7-8)
Again, he underlines the same idea when he said: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love his brother or sister, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (4,20)
That loving God always goes with loving our neighbor is the basic formula to use to live our life properly. Everything has to be determined by our love for God and love for neighbor. The parameters to use in everything that we do, starting with our thoughts and intentions down to our most material activities, should be love for God and love for neighbor.
These are the determinants that should define our life and give shape to our thoughts, words and deeds. Outside of these parameters, we would be straying from the proper path.
We have to understand then that what would constitute as our true development and as our fullness of life should be the fruit of our love for God and love for the others, whoever they may be, for that is what a neighbor is—he is anyone and everyone. Our neighbor can even include our enemies, since Christ himself said it very clearly that we too should love our enemies. (cfr. Mt 5,44)
We have to be wary with just doing what we like to do, even if what we do is objectively not bad since it is not a willful disobedience of God’s commandments. This is because, if it is not referred to the love of God and love for neighbor, it may just be an exercise of self-centeredness or selfishness.
And this is the common predicament we have around the world. People, merely relying on what they consider as personal good, just do whatever is convenient and practical to them, whatever is profitable and advantageous to them.
We have to do everything to escape from the grip of these worldly values that can only be legitimate if related to love of God and love for neighbor. We have to spread the good news that it is actually and only when things begin and end with God that whatever legitimate desire for success, wealth, power, etc., would be achieved properly.
That’s why in many of our liturgical prayers, we always end with the words, “Through Christ, our Lord…” That’s simply because it would only be through Christ that whatever we say or ask in our prayers is heard and acted upon by God.
We also have to remember that referring ourselves to God always involves referring ourselves too with others. God and neighbor cannot be separated. Our love for God would not be true if it is not carried out in our love for others. And vice-versa. Our love for neighbor would not be true if not based on our love for God.*