1 John 4:19-5:4
Today’s readings offer us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our Catholic social teaching. The U.S. Bishops tell us that Catholic social teaching is an essential and central part of our Faith. Reading today’s scripture shows us the validity of the Bishops’ words.
The first reading is a reading from John. John tells us that if we love God, we must also love our brothers. This is one of those lines that heard often, the implication can easily be forgotten. Of course we know that we must love our brothers and sisters, but what does that mean? Does it mean that we give to those causes that touch our hearts, does it mean we give food to the local food bank, does it mean we simplify our lives in order to be able to give to those with less, or is it all of these and something more? When John talks about loving our brother, isn’t he challenging us to a change of heart, a new way of life, a whole new way of thinking?
In the Old Testament, taking care of the poor, the elderly, the widowed was part of the obligation of an Israelite, but what Jesus asks is more. He asks us to LOVE our brothers and sisters. For some, it may be that we love our brothers and sisters by forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply, for others, it may be that working to correct the causes of social injustice are the way we express our love, and yet others may be called to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or take part in prison ministry, or volunteer at a pregnancy clinic. Everyone is not called to be a missionary, caring for the poor in a far off country, but everyone is called to love their neighbor.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says clearly that he has come to bring glad tidings to the poor, to liberate the captives, give sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free. He has come to love and serve each of us, and in following Jesus, we also must love and serve the Christ we find in our brothers and sisters.
In the words of Pope Francis: "… to love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete: it means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you are, dear brothers and sisters, the face of Jesus. (May 23, 2013)
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.