If asked, most Christians would say we love God before everything else. But if we claim God is our first priority, how well do our actions support that claim?
To examine our priorities, we should first examine what it means to love God. Perhaps the best answer to this question originates from Jesus himself. Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22: 37) Our emotions (heart); our soul (spirituality) and our intellect are transformed by God’s love.
We are called to union with God, inasmuch as such a union is possible in this life. This union with God is not something we initiate, nor is it something we can make happen through our own efforts. Our task is simply to invite such a union and be open to it.
We are graced with God’s presence, both as the divine spark within ourselves and as God being present to us in our encounters with others. We surrender to God’s grace. Our view of the world changes, when we can begin to see through God’s eyes.
But Jesus didn’t stop with the statement of loving God. He also said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:39) The love Jesus speaks of is “agape,” love that does not pursue its own interests, but wills the good of another. This love is self-giving, without regard to reward or condition.
We understand neighbor to include those beyond our neighborhood, church, and country — all humankind. So, if we have placed God first in our lives, and if we desire to follow Jesus’ two greatest commandments, do our actions match what we claim?
Each must examine his or her own conscience on this question.
The temptation to put our own needs ahead of the needs of others is ever present, especially in a wealthy country devoted to capitalism and consumerism.
How easy it can be to join the chorus of voices who blame the poor for their own plights because we believe they have not worked hard enough or have grown dependent upon handouts. How easy it can be to seek violent solutions rather than peaceful ones.
Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” Justice is at the heart of Christian living. We cannot absolve ourselves of the responsibility to work for the good of all people, to reform unjust systems, and to advocate for peace.
Quoted in the Catechism (2446) are the words of St. John Chrysostom: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” The Catechism continues: “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity.”
Our actions on behalf of social justice are not rooted in politics; they are rooted in faith.