Love: The Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions
Readings: 1st: Ex 22, 20-26; Ps 17; 2nd: 1Thes 1, 5-10; Gos: Mt 22, 34-40
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. He is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico; the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today is the thirtieth Sunday of ordinary time. Today, the church reminds us of the most important theological virtue, love. In a most special way, Jesus gives us the two dimensions of love. The vertical, love of God, and the horizontal, love of neighbor. When these are perfectly lived, a Christian can conveniently say, I have lived well.
In the first reading of today, through Moses, God warns us: “You must not oppress the stranger or molest him…not be harsh with the widow or with orphans.” Of course, God reminds us that such acts would attract his wrath upon the oppressor. Therefore, the lesson here is that we must treat others justly and with love. God hates oppression and injustice especially, against the weak, the poor and the defenseless.
In the second reading, Paul reminds the Thessalonians community of their former status as pagans, and how they were liberated through the power of the good news. Their liberation was a sign of God’s love for them. Their acceptance of the good news was equally a sign of their love for God. Thus, Paul praised their effort and encouraged them to endure in love until the coming of the Lord.
In today’s gospel, the Pharisees posed Christ another “difficult” question: “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” As usual, this was in in order to test him. A close look at Jesus’ response today, reveals that Jesus presents us with, first the vertical dimension of love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul….” It is important to note that to love God with one’s body and soul requires a lot of sacrifice, and humility. To love God is the most important perquisite of being like him.
The second dimension of love is the horizontal: “You must love your neighbor as yourself?” This is more difficult than the first. This is because, we neglect and take it for granted. This is, by thinking that we can love God alone without loving our neighbors.
Hence, Christ reminds us that: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn 4, 20). So, the best way of expressing our love for God is through our neighbors. We must affect others positively in order to love God well.
Therefore, in talking of love, charity must begin at home, with your neighbor, with your friends and those around you. Saint Augustine admonishes us; “…Love, and do whatever you will. Whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love you must spare. Let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.” This is absolutely right because, it is through our neighbors that we worship and love God. When we find God, we find our own peace and love.
Finally, those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well, must help others to live well too. The value of one’s life is measured by the lives it touched positively. So, with the psalmist, let us proclaim: “I love you Lord, my strength.”
Peace be with you all!