A Better Way to Love Our Neighbor: Know Your Self First
Since the beginning days learning about our faith, we understand we are made in God’s image and likeness. Next, we are taught to see that same image in our neighbors as a way to grow to love them. This suggestion helped us, but for many disciples, it left this commandment difficult to observe.
Perhaps a better suggestion to help us learn to love our neighbor is to see our image and likeness in them before we search for God’s. Why you may ask? Because we know we are all sinners who struggle to do our best, to love God for His abundant mercy freely given to us, and to love our neighbor.
We also realize that every neighbor, from Pope Francis to the those on our block, faces the same temptations and weaknesses. We each need to guard against those sinister forces who challenge us every day.
Yet while every neighbor desires to enter heaven through the “narrow gate,” we find the lure of the “wider gate” leading to ruin more inviting. And every neighbor shares this attraction.
Once we recognize this phenomenon, we can more easily feel compassion for every neighbor affected by this common weakness. If we open our eyes and hearts to see our neighbors, not simply who they are, but who we are together; namely, broken and wounded, we can be humbled by our mutual circumstances.
And yet, despite our shared frailty, God showers us with the free gift of His grace which leads us from the darkness into His own wonderful, all-embracing light. This abundant healing grace washes over us all equally, lifting us up to receive the same common reward, a place in eternity, where we will live joined together.
It is consoling to consider how everyone we meet, strangers and neighbors, travel the same pilgrimage route hoping to acquire the same friendship with Christ. It is refreshing to realize that we are not in competition to gain it. Thus, we have no need to hoard God’s friendship for no one is better than anyone else. Grace comes generously and abundantly to all!
Christ has the power to turn everyone’s weakness into the same goodness. This is what we share in common with every person we meet on our journey. If we hold this truth in our heart, our being neighborly is but another way of loving ourselves, loving our neighbor, and loving our God.