Loving in Difficult Situations

August 25, 2023
Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Louis, King—Optional Memorial

Saint Joseph of Calasanz, Priest—Optional Memorial

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37–39

We are very familiar with this passage above. It is Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees who came to test Jesus. Prior to this, a group of Sadducees tried to trap Jesus and failed. So now it was the Pharisees who gave it their best shot to trap our Lord. Of course, Jesus’ answer was perfect. And upon the conclusion of this answer, Jesus returned the favor by asking the Pharisees some questions that they could not answer, and they dared not ask Him any further questions at that time.

Sometimes, being challenged by another in matters of faith helps us, in that it allows us to clarify what we actually believe. Though Jesus did not need clarity for His own sake, He did offer this clarity in the face of trickery so as to help both the Pharisees as well as His followers who were listening attentively.

Have you ever been challenged by another about matters of faith? If so, what was your response? Were you able to respond by the inspiration and clarity given by the Holy Spirit? Or did you walk away confused and unable to respond? Having our faith challenged by another will either result in our own confusion or in our deeper understanding.

By answering this question in the way that Jesus did, He presented the entire Law given by Moses in the Ten Commandments in a new and summarized way. The first three of the Ten Commandments have to do with love of God, and the last seven have to do with love of neighbor. The second commandment Jesus gives, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” is a consequence of the first commandment. How do you “love yourself?” You do so by fulfilling the first commandment Jesus gave: “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” When God is loved above all, then loving your neighbor simply means that you love God Who dwells within your neighbor in accord with the way God loves them.

It is also helpful to note that it is possible to “love” our neighbor in such a way that is contrary to the love of God. For example, if our love of neighbor is expressed in such a way that is contrary to the Love of God, then this is not true love. Let’s say that your neighbor has chosen a gravely immoral lifestyle. How do you love them with the love of God? You don’t say to them “I support you in your immoral living.” Doing so is not love of God; it’s a selfish form of love that cares more about how the person will respond back to you than caring for their eternal soul. The right form of love for one who has gone astray in an objectively immoral way is to let them know you love them but do not support the choices they are making. And though they may respond negatively to this, caring for their eternal salvation must supersede every desire to simply get along with them.

Love of neighbor, at times, especially when the “neighbor” is a family member who has turned from God, can be challenging. But when it is, think about the way that the Sadducees and Pharisees tried to constantly trap Jesus. He always gave the perfect response of love and never allowed their misguided conversation to leave confusion. So with us, we must rely upon the wisdom and love of God when loving another is difficult. God must guide our every conversation in that case so that the other knows they are loved and so that our love does not deviate from the pure love of God.

Reflect, today, upon the high calling you have been given to love God above all and to love your neighbor with that same love that you have for God. If you find loving someone is difficult, pray for the wisdom you need to remain faithful to them in God’s love alone. And if you find your love challenged, rely upon our Lord to lead you and to give you the words you need when you need them the most.

My loving Lord, You love all people with a perfect love, and You call us all to love You with our whole heart, soul and mind. And You call us to love others with the love You have for them. Fill my heart with love of You and all people, especially those who are most difficult to love. Give me wisdom, dear Lord, to know how to love others in You so that they will experience Your perfect love in their lives. Jesus, I trust in You!