During his Angelus address from St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis takes his cue from Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark in which a scribe asks Jesus ‘What is the first of all the commandments?
Jesus responds, said the Pope, by quoting the profession of faith with which every Israelite opens and closes his day and which begins with the words ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord’. It is from this source, explained the Pontiff, ‘that the double commandment is derived for us: ‘You will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
Serve, Forgive, Cultivate
By choosing these two words addressed by God to his people and putting them together, Pope Francis said that, ‘Jesus taught once and for all that love for God and love for one's neighbour are inseparable; indeed, more than that, they support one another. Even if placed in sequence, they are the two faces of a single coin: lived together they are the true strength of the believer!
To love God is to live by Him and for Him, for what He is and for what He does. It means, the Pope continued, ‘to invest one's energies every day to be his collaborators in serving our neighbour without reserve, in trying to forgive without limits and in cultivating relationships of communion and fraternity.’ Pope Francis pointed out that Mark the Evangelist, ‘does not bother to specify who the neighbour is…’ as it is ‘not a question of pre-selecting my neighbour, but of having eyes to see him and a heart to love him.’
Be more than Christian ‘service stations’
Today's Gospel, he went on to say, ‘invites all of us to be projected not only towards the urgencies of our poorest brothers and sisters, but above all to be attentive to their need for fraternal closeness, for a sense of life and for tenderness. This challenges our Christian communities: it is a question of avoiding the risk of being communities that live by many initiatives but with few relationships: ‘service stations’ but with little company, in the full and Christian sense of the term.’
The Pope underlined that ‘God, who is love, created us out of love, so that we can love others while remaining united to Him. The two dimensions of love, for God and for our neighbour, in their unity, characterize the disciple of Christ.’