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Growing in Love of Neighbor

by St. Paul Center
Neighbor

Today’s readings remind us of the centrality of charity in the Christian life. Martin Luther was quite wrong to assert that our salvation lies in “faith alone,” as if mere intellectual assent to the truths of Christianity were enough.

On the contrary, as the text from Matthew 25 reminds us, on judgement day we will be sternly called to account for the extent to which we failed to actively live out our faith through good works in this life. 

As the epistle of St. James tells us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jas 1:27). Faith requires action: first and foremost in love of God but also—and essentially—in love of neighbor.  

Already in the text from Leviticus we see this precept inscribed in the Mosaic Law: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (see Lev 19:17–18).  

Perhaps at times, those of us who seek an orthodox expression of the Catholic faith risk losing sight of these words. Are there moments when we risk reducing the beauty of the faith to dry formulas? Do we take care to ensure our study of theology doesn’t become an ivory tower that shields us from the truly difficult work of loving our neighbor and serving the poor? 

Interestingly, the image Jesus uses in the Gospel is that of a king. As Christians we are called to serve Christ the King, and to the extent that we neglect the wants and needs of the King’s subjects, we are offending the King Himself. We would do well, therefore, to remember that the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom defined by love. Let us strive to build up Christ’s kingdom here on earth.  

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