Let’s begin with Holy Writ: “[A] lawyer asked [Jesus] a question, to test Him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets’ ” (Matthew 22:35-40).
1 John 4:21 stressed this double precept: “This commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” The first part of the twofold law is about unconditional love of God. The second part follows as its consequence. St Thomas Aquinas (d 1274) glossed these verses in his Commentary on St Matthew: “When man is loved, God is loved, since man is the image of God.” We must cultivate our different loves in their proper order. God comes first, always.
Let’s see the Collect for Mass for this 25th Ordinary Sunday (Novus Ordo, obviously): “Deus, qui sacrae legis omnia constituta in tua et proximi dilectione posuisti, da nobis, ut, tua praecepta servantes, ad vitam mereamur pervenire perpetuam.”
Current ICEL translation (2011): “O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law upon love of you and of our neighbour, grant that, by keeping your precepts, we may merit to attain eternal life.”
People are made in God’s image. They are our neighbours. Some are closer to us than others, but there is no one who is not in some way our neighbour; even enemies.
This reciprocal relationship is at the heart of what the Lord teaches about forgiveness: forgive or you will not be forgiven. It is often hard to forgive. When our Saviour taught us how to pray (cf Matthew 6), He explained and then stressed forgiveness: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
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