[Note the St. Francis icon] A lawyer asks a tricky question: Of the ten commandments of Moses, and of the 613 lesser commandments, which is the one law I cannot break if I want to get to heaven? “This is the One,” Our Lord replies: “Love God.” Love God with all your heart (emotions and affections), with all your soul (prayers and sacrifices), and with all your mind (intellect and will). Love God with everything you’ve got. But, Jesus continues, there is a Second Commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. “Neighbor” comes from the German word “Nahe” or “near:” “he who is near you”. Could be on a bus, or at work, or at your kitchen table. You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your “neighbors”—they just show up, and often enough, at rather inconvenient times.
Jesus insists on this second commandment, because it’s the only way by which we know we are loving God in real time, beyond just thinking about it. God is a hidden God, a God of silence. If I don’t love him, he doesn’t throw a fit. If I don’t render him just praise every Sunday at Mass, he doesn’t cut me off. But if I don’t call my mother on Sunday, she will scold me. If I irritate my roommate, he will let me know about it. If I don’t pay my electric bill, someone will cut off my power. Neighbors keep us accountable, because how I love my neighbor is how I love God. Show patience to that anoying woman at work or that nasty man at Safeway, Jesus says, and you show kindness to me. Love your wife when she’s screaming at you, and you love God.
One Law; Three People to Love
So we have two commandments, two people to whom we must show loving kindness: God, and the guy next door. But there’s a third person, and Jesus names that person too: yourself. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How much do I love myself? A person who treats others badly might say that he is loving others as he loves himself—he just doesn’t love himself very much. God commands me to love every person, including that person who lives inside my own skin. So, we have three to love: God, neighbor, and self, in that order. Some people, especially those who have had rough childhoods, may need to learn to love themselves before they can love others, but it is certain that love of God comes before everything and everyone. And loving God is essentially spending time with Him in prayer. Time is love, even for human relationships. I don’t love God if I don’t come to Him every Sunday in Holy Mass, or spend an hour in adoration. Hanging a rosary from my rear view mirror is not love; taking the time to pray that rosary is love.
The Holy Rosary
Yesterday about a thousand people attended Mass at the cathedral to honor Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow. They walked with the archbishop, praying the rosary as he carried the Holy Eucharist through the streets. At Civic Center he led a third rosary and then blessed San Francisco with the Blessed Sacrament. Homeless people walking by, tourists strolling down Market Street, billionaires driving by in their Lamborghinis—all of them were blessed yesterday. Many of you took the time to be there. But most of us didn’t. I want to challenge you to spend real time in prayer when the Church calls you to do so. That begins with Sunday Mass but includes also other forms of public, communal prayer. Let’s make even greater efforts to pull together as Catholics in public prayer.
We celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7 because, on that day in 1571, Europe was saved from a Muslim invasion in the gulf of Lepanto. The undefeated Ottoman navy outmanned the Christian forces by almost 2 to 1, and as the ships engaged in the greatest naval battle in history a strong east wind was driving the invader’s ships into the Christian fleet. St. Pius V asked every man, woman and child in Europe to pray the rosary that day for protection. The soldiers themselves held a sword in one hand and a rosary in the other. Just after 12 noon the wind changed, and Our Lady obtained victory for our forefathers. Do you want to be free, and do you want our country to be free? It’s not as simple as it was in 1571. The invader today comes not through ships but through our children’s smartphones and school curricula. We fight a moral battle, and it is the rosary, not gunpowder, that will defend us. Pray the family rosary, and Our Lady will keep you safe. In Spanish they say sin ella nada; con ella todo. “Without her nothing; with her everything.”