Love of God in Loving our Neighbor
Fr. Lawrence Dharmaraj, SJ is a spiritual counselor at Gujarat Vidya Deep (GVD) Regional Seminary, Sevasi, Baroda, Gujarat 391101, India. E-Mail ID firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether it is lent or Advent we are invited to keep our hearts and minds fresh and alive to love Jesus in loving our neighbor. These seasons offer us both an opportunity and a challenge to go back to Jesus’ fresh news of love and forgiveness to heal the broken world in all aspects of life. With a creative fidelity to the teaching of the Church we need to re-interpret the love of God for our lives today. The most practical way of concretizing God’s love is Reconciliation. Often both religious and the faithful rush through the ten commandments as a preparation for sacrament of Reconciliation. This alone will not be sufficient. We need to spend sometime to look into the refreshing newness that these commandments and the sacrament offer us today. Here is an attempt to refresh them for our times.
1. ‘Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, for I am the Lord your God’(Dt /4:8). The first commandment is an invitation to allow ourselves to be enveloped by the unconditional love of the Creator who has been carrying us as God’s own beloved(Isaiah49:15). We are not a by-product but persons having been formed from time immemorial to live in the unconditional love of the creator.(Dt1:30-32).We need to shed all that hinders us from being part of that supreme love. Reflect and discover what are things, persons, offices, places, etc that we keep absolutizing to ourselves?. There is only one thing that is absolute: God. So we shall Love and serve God in our neighbor.
2. ‘Do not use My Name for evil purposes’(Dt/ 5:11). On a bright day a frenzied mob became violent and attacked an innocent pregnant woman because she belonged to a different faith. The cruelty was extended to the innocent unborn. The woman’s womb was slit open and the fetus was pulled out and sliced into pieces with resounding religious slogans. As we glance through the pages of history, we realize each religion has its share of cruel religious fanatic practices. Now-a-days we witness with helplessness our centers of worship blaring with loud speakers having no consideration for the sick , the old and students studying for exams. Sometimes our religious processions hamper the good will of the people by causing inconveniences to the public. It is important that we need to translate our good intentions of love and care into actions that build people both individually and collectively. We thank God that the internal disputes between various Rites with in the Catholic church have been subsiding. “Not every one who calls me Lord, lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my father in heaven wants them to do’(Mt7;21).
3. ‘Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, as I the Lord your God have commanded you’(Dt/5:12) In the New Testament we see Jesus telling His disciples ‘Let us go off by ourselves to some place where you will be alone and you can rest for a while’(Mk6:31). Jesus’ loving invitation to His disciples to rest and foster good health is a strong reminder to care for our lives. Our lives are gifted to us. We pay special attention and cherish the gift of life by taking care of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of our lives. A holiday once a week provides ample opportunities to look into these dimensions.. Our Lord’s invitation to rest is asking us to pay attention to these dimensions. But at the end it is our Lord who is our rest. It is in our Lord that we find our fulfillment and completion. ‘Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you’( St. Augustine).
4. ‘Respect your father and your mother, as I the Lord your God, command you, so that all may live a long time in the land that I am giving you’(Dt/5:16). Our parents are gifted to us. Through them we have received the invaluable gift of life from God. They have loved us in good times as well as in bad times. Often they have sacrificed their lives for our sakes which we are often unaware. They remind us of our tasks as parents. The task is to pledge anew to be co-shares of God’s unconditional love and to care for one’s own near and dear ones as well as the needy. We must respect and honor their vocation to the family life by acknowledging and cherishing the love of our parents. We should thank God for them and do all that we can to keep broken families united in love.
5. ‘Do not kill’(Dt5:17).The greatest of all sins is the sin of killing another human person. God alone has the power to grant life or withhold life. Our responsibility is to promote and enhance the quality of our lives and the lives of the needy. Today we find the minorities in trouble all over India and elsewhere around the world. Unfortunately today NGOS, people’s movements all over the world and institutions who fight against all forms of injustices (religious, cultural, social, national, international, environmental.. etc) are on the verge of being wiped out by powerful regimes and governments. We need to stand by and foster such groups and organizations that act as counter-structures and counter-cultures to safe –guard the dignity of human life. To realize this goal we need to join with people of all nations, creeds and castes. Above all we are called to love our enemies and condemn and stop their in-human acts.(Mt5/43-48).
6. ‘Do not commit adultery.(Dt/18). Do not desire another’s wife/husband.(Dt/5:21). God created both male and female in God’s own image and likeness. Our sexuality is one of the many precious gifts of our Lord to us. ‘God blessed them and said ‘have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control’.(Gen/2:20). ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one’.(Gen/2.24). So our sexuality is to be viewed from the aspect of a deeper expression of love and commitment towards one another within the sacred marital bond. Both pre-marital and post-marital sexual misconducts deeply affect the core of the personality of a person and ultimately ruining individual’s as well as families’ good life. Moreover adultery or desiring someone’s husband or wife is a grave violation of the sacred marital bond. Above all it is a dire degradation of one’s own human gift as a person. We are not mere objects of pleasure but persons of divine indwelling.
7. ‘Do not steal’(Dt/5:19). ‘Do not desire another’s possessions’(Dt5:21). To desire someone’s wealth and possession is to deny one’s own God given gifts and potentials. As far as health permits do all that you can to be part of God’s loving works. Jesus insists that the Lord is even at work to save the world(Jn5:17). My Father is at work until now and I am at work as well –even on the Sabbath.. So look into yourselves and value the personal talents God has given you. As the potter works with clay, as the artist labors over a landscape, God continues to care for the world through us personally, collectively and cosmically. The rat race for quick economic gain has been ruining the environment and the deprived of society systematically. We need to think about our contribution to make our planet a pollution-free and cosmic-friendly one. Above all we need to care the depleted earth and the deprived of society.
8. ‘Do not accuse anyone falsely’ (Dt/5:20). We witness in today’s world rampant corruption at all levels. The malady is due to unbelief which finds its expression in all walks of life. At the personal level the unbelief finds its expression in the form of hoarding, using and manipulating people for one’s own needs and desires. At the social level it finds its expression as an organized structure and systematic denial of the weaker human persons on a mass scale. (Castiesm, racism, vested policies., etc). The champion of this cause was none other than the late beloved Pope John Paul the II, who in his encyclical ‘Redemptor Hominis’ stresses the ‘emphasis on the dignity of the human person made in the image of God’. This is the true faith to which we all must return. We must never lose sight of the true reality of ourselves that we are formed out of love, being sustained by God in love and constantly being invited by God to be in that supreme Love. Truthfulness in word and deed to this reality will make us as true salt, light, and leaven in the world.(Mt/5:13-16).
As we initiate the reflection on the 10 commandments, we come to realize that they are not merely the commandments of prohibition, rather they are loving invitation to do good. They offer us new avenues of life. They help us to focus on what is the noble and perennial values in life. To deepen this process we need to spend time and pray over them. Above all, the sacrament of reconciliation reaffirms this process and empowers us to be agents of God’s love in all aspects of life. Have a wonderful season of Advent / lent!
To view Ignatian articles kindly click the links given below. These articles are written by Gujarat Jesuit scholastics.