I am sure you have heard it said, as I have, that there would be no need for organized religion if people simply learn to love one another. That people love one another is, of course, a fine sentiment – the problem is, is just doesn’t seem to work like that. Indeed today, as has been the case throughout history, war is raging in several parts of the world, the innocent are loosing their lives, and the futility of ideologically driven conflict seems to have triumphed. Why don’t people simply love one another?
Thomas Merton, I am sure conscious of our Gospel this week, gets it right I think when he says ; ‘The beginning of the fight against hatred, the basic Christian answer to hatred, is not the commandment to love, but what must necessarily come before in order to make the commandment bearable and comprehensible. It is a prior commandment to believe. The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved…by God although unworthy or rather irrespective of one’s worth!’
‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’
Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’