The greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbour as yourself.
In the First Reading from Exodus we have God telling Moses how his people should act. They are not to molest or oppress the stranger (the immigrant), because they were once in the same situation. They are to be kind and good to the widow and orphan (the ones with no legal rights), and he warns that if they cry to him he will hear them and his anger be roused. He says that if you lend money do not ask for interest. In these times the large cloak that most people had was also their bed and blanket and if someone takes a person’s cloak he must give it back to him before night fall.
So, we find the love of neighbour firmly embedded in the Old Testament as well as the commandment to love the Lord your God. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of the Law he said “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He then adds “you must love your neighbour as yourself.” The difference is that Jesus gives the two commandments equal weight, in essence saying that you cannot love God and not love your neighbour and visa versa.
This is always a huge challenge to many people. Some will develop a very prayerful relationship with God. They will spend much time in worship and in acts of devotion but have no real care or love for those in need or trouble around them. There is a terrible sterility about the lives of those who claim to love God, but in reality dispense themselves from all obligations to love other people. The have only got half the Gospel.
Christ showed us how to live the total Gospel, that is, how to love God and to love your neighbour as well. He didn’t say they were the same thing, but that we cannot have one without the other. When Jesus was asked who is my neighbour he told the story of the Good Samaritan. This shocked his audience as at that time the Jews considered the Samaritans as unclean and treated them with contempt. So, for Jesus no other person is unclean or should be treated with contempt. That is our challenge in a world that has great problems with Race, Gender, Religious affiliation, Sexual Orientation, immigrants and strangers. Are we able to grow into mature Christians who can love God and Neighbour and enhance our world?