In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Gospel summarises our whole faith: ‘Love God and love your neighbour as yourself’. Unfortunately, we are so accustomed to hearing these words that we sometimes forget what they mean.
In fact in order to love God, two things are necessary.
First of all, we must believe in a God Who is the Creator of all things. It is no use believing in a god who is just a convenient idea, on whom we can peg responsibilities or blame, as it pleases us. For example, it is very common nowadays to hear the words: ‘We all have the same god’. These words are quite untrue. Thus there are some people for whom god is a bottle of whisky, with others their idol is a pop star or a football team. We do not have the same god.
Secondly we have to believe in a God who is Love. For example, as regards religions other than Christianity, we do not have the same god. Buddhists for example do not have a god: Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion. Hindus believe in a multitude of gods, who try and do the strangest things. Muslims believe in a god who rewards warfare and acts of terrorism. The Jews believe in a god who takes revenge, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. Only the Christian God is the Maker of all and also the God of Love.
All the teachings of the Church are based on Love. The Christian God is a God in Three Persons, Who love each other, a perfect Unity in Diversity. The Christian God is He who sent His Son to earth. In an act of self-sacrificial Love He gave up His life out of compassion for mankind. And when the Son had of His own will thus saved mankind from sin by being crucified and risen, overcoming death by death, the same Son sent the Comforter from His Father to us, the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God, the Spirit of Truth and Love.
It is true that throughout history the name of the Church has been abused and misused by various people as a political tool. Nevertheless the mere fact that the Church continues to exist after two thousand years and the truths of Christ are still preached through Her, is proof that the Church is not a human institution, but a divine one. However the name of the Church has been compromised, the Church Herself as the Body of Christ remains beyond all compromise.
The second commandment given by Christ is to love our neighbours as ourselves. Christ says that this commandment is like the first one. For if we are called to love the Creator, then we must surely also love His Creation, including our fellow-men, who are made in the image and the likeness of God the Creator. In this commandment we are also called to love ourselves, not in the sense of selfishness and vain self-admiration, but in the sense of the words of a popular song: ‘Everybody’s beautiful in their own way’. Of course, these words are sentimental and emotional, but they still express the truth of the Gospel that there is potential good in all human beings – the image or beauty of God is within us. It is this image or beauty of God which we have first to discover, and then to develop, so that the likeness of God may grow within us. In order to do this, we must listen to the voice of God calling us to our true destiny.
The lack of faith in the loving Creator always and inevitably leads to hatred of His Creation, that is, hatred of our neighbours, and then hatred of ourselves.
For instance, in the nineteenth century there was a German philosopher who, hating the Creator, the Christian God of Love, wrote that: ‘God is dead’. In the twenty-first century, within three generations of that foolish man’s death in a lunatic asylum, the leaders of his people had started two World Wars and performed acts of hatred of their neighbours, genocide, on an organised and industrial scale unseen before the twentieth century. The leaders of other peoples, no better, also adopted the thought of this philosopher, and they too from Soviet Russia to China, from Croatia to Rwanda, carried out acts of hatred of their neighbours, genocide.
One cannot help fearing that this assassination of God in men’s hearts in the nineteenth century, followed by the assassination of God’s Creation in the twentieth century, will not be followed by the assassination of ourselves through some self-inflicted catastrophe, ecological or in warfare, in the twenty-first century. Thus:
In the nineteenth century – the murder of God – Deicide.
In the twentieth century – the murder of our neighbours – genocide.
In the twenty-first century – the murder of ourselves – suicide.
But perhaps such thoughts are too gloomy. After all, there were moments in the twentieth century, when people said that the end of the world was coming. But each time humanity drew back from the brink of self-destruction, from suicide. Most recently during the lifetimes of many of us, in the missile crisis in Cuba. Even today, although humanity has the means to destroy itself many times over with what are now fashionably called ‘weapons of mass destruction’, whether nuclear, chemical or biological, the world goes on.
In the Scriptures the holy Apostle Paul writes that at the end of the world the love for others will grow cold. It seems that this has not yet happened. For as long as there are a few who continue to keep the commandments, to love God and love their neighbour as themselves, the world will continue. It is still not too late to draw back from suicide, and genocide, and Deicide.
What are we to do? In the words of the Psalms, it is all very clear:
‘Seek God and your soul shall live’.