Christians loving one another proves Christianity

| Father Byron Hagan | May 14, 2019 | 0 Comments

We are familiar with the summary of the Commandments that Jesus gives when under the interrogation: “What is the greatest commandment?” (Mt 22:36). He says that “the whole law and the prophets” are summed up in the commandment to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, and then to follow upon this love with loving our neighbors as ourselves — a tall order indeed. In fact, it’s impossible without divine grace.

Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan. iStock/sedmak

In another place, there’s a similar discourse, as Jesus is asked by “an expert in the law” how to attain eternal life. Jesus places the question back on the questioner, who then goes on to summarize the law in the same way Jesus did in Matthew 22: to love God and neighbor in a radical way (Lk 10:25). But then the question arises: “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus gives the parable of the Good Samaritan, where we are taught that our “neighbor” is truly anyone in need whose path we cross, especially those who do not belong to our “tribe,” meaning our family or group of close friends. In short, the one who loves God and follows the law of God’s love opens up his heart for the whole world, just as Jesus did.

Up to this point, Jesus’ audience is being told things they already know — or at least that they should already know. In the Gospel for Sunday, May 19, however, Jesus gives what he calls a “new commandment.” This commandment is given strictly to those members of the new Church that Christ is founding. He says to them that they must love each other in the same way that he has loved them. They must be prepared to give their very lives for each other. This is the form of unity that Christians have with one another, that they are all Christ to each other. Furthermore, the Lord says that it will be by this love within the body of believers that they witness to the world that they belong to Christ.

I recall something that Pope Francis said a few years ago, perhaps, in a speech or homily. He said “the Church is not just another NGO.” An “NGO” is a “non-governmental organization,” which means a private charity. It is true that Christians are called to serve the poor wherever they find them and to go looking for them, even, since they are not always within view, and that such mission is essential to the identity of the Church according to the parable of the Good Samaritan.

However, the Church in the world — the “Church Militant” — is not defined completely by her activity as “Good Samaritan.” The Church in her innermost essence is the extension of the life of the blessed Trinity within the body of the baptized. The Church calls all to become a part of this body, and her public witness to the trinitarian love that lives in her is not given primarily by what she does for those outside the body, but rather by the love that is demonstrated within the body by the members one to another.

In our time, society is divided radically into political tribes. Our sense of kinship is more likely to be felt toward those who think with us politically. But, as members of the body of the baptized, we must always remember that our love for our fellow Christians exists for one reason — that they are our fellow Christians. It is by this love alone that we will be known as disciples of Christ.

Christ himself said so.

Father Hagan is a parochial vicar of Holy Cross in Minneapolis.

Sunday, May 19
Fifth Sunday of Easter

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Category: Sunday Scriptures