The "Second" Commandment: Love One Another
This week in the daily Mass readings we are working our way through St. John’s First Epistle. St. John keeps hammering away at one theme that was close to the heart of the Redeemer: love one another. We need to tattoo this one on our foreheads. Jesus said, “This I command you: love one another.” Indeed this is the "Second" Commandment according to Our Lord Jesus Christ, intrinsically linked to The Great Commandment.
Our fundamental disposition when dealing with others must be: “How can I love the person in front of me?” It doesn’t matter if we like them or not, it doesn’t matter whether we perceive them to be important or not. I don’t care if it’s Governor Granholm, or President Bush, or Pope John Paul II; I don’t care if it’s the teenager working at McDonalds or the custodian or the homeless guy; it makes no difference whatsoever.
Each one made in the image and likeness of God must be treated with love…love…beyond respect, beyond tolerance, beyond acceptance. It doesn’t matter if I’m angry; I may have a right to be angry, we must treat each other with love. It doesn’t matter how the person makes me feel or whether or not their behavior is good. If our point of departure is not love, if our message does not spring from love, if our modus operandi is not love, then we may as well surrender the pretense of Christianity.
This selfless agape love shines like gold and is as hardy as old tree roots. This love must be tough. As Dostoyevski wrote in The Brothers Karamazov, “Real love is a harsh and a dreadful thing compared with the love we imagine in our dreams.” Or as Flannery O’Connor said, “Charity is hard and endures.”
Often love has to say, “No.” Many times real love must deny what someone else wants. The toddler might want to play with the shotgun but a good parent will say, “No.” A relative struggling with substance abuse might want you to pretend that nothing is wrong but real love will not deny the truth.
I often hear complaints about my parish. People say, “We should do this or that.” They exclaim, “If only we had X, Y or Z.” They grumble, “He’s the problem because…” or, “Do you know what she did?” The reality is that I’m the problem; I do not love as I should.
We will have no authentic renewal in the Catholic Church, no pastoral plan no matter how brilliant, no program, policy or idea will make any difference whatsoever unless we love and forgive one another from our hearts. Yelling, backbiting, gossiping, resenting, murmuring, griping, territoriality, pusillanimity, it all has to be replaced by love.
If we do not love one another we all may as well sleep-in on Sundays.
If we have no love we’d be better off watching TV or taking up basket weaving; without love we’re wasting our time.
Normally when a priest gets ordained, he has a sort of holy card made up for his ordination. It’s kind of like a priestly trading card. On the back of my holy card is a quote from St. Paul where he (and I) ask for prayers, and then this quote from St. Theresa of Avila:
The important thing is to love much…do then whatever most arouses you to love.