Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The first reading today challenges our conception of what it means to love God. We can often think of love of God simply as an abstract feeling or thought directed toward some distant, otherworldly being. However, John reminds us that loving God is something very concrete. Loving God means loving our neighbor here and now.
Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, echoed this core teaching when he described how Jesuit schools should form their students, “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; . . . men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.”
In a society that so often convinces us to care only for ourselves and to pay only lip service to God, following the call to love God in this concrete way can be extremely difficult and countercultural. Yet, loving our sisters and brothers in this world is what it means to follow Christ and to love God.
How are you loving God? How are you loving those around you and working for justice for the oppressed and marginalized in your family, community, and world?
—Thomas Bambrick, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.
Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve: to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and ask for no reward, except that of knowing I do your will.—St. Ignatius Loyola, Prayer for Generosity (Visit downloadable prayer cards for this and other prayers.) Please share the Good Word with your friends!