Vatican City, Oct 26, 2014 / 05:36 am
The message Pope Francis sent during his Sunday Angelus address was that love of God and neighbor are inseparably united, and that we see God's face most clearly in the weak and vulnerable.
"In the middle of the thicket of rules and regulations – of the legalisms of yesterday and today – Jesus opens a gap that allows you to see two faces: the face of the Father and that of the brother," the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Oct. 26 recitation of the traditional Marian prayer.
"He doesn't deliver us two formulas or two precepts, but two faces, indeed one face, the face of God reflected in many faces, because in the face of each brother, especially in the smallest, the most fragile and the most helpless, the same image of God is present."
Pope Francis took his cue from the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus is tested by a doctor of the law who asks which is the greatest commandment.
In his response, Jesus first quotes the Book of Deuteronomy in saying that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of one's heart, soul and mind, the pontiff observed.
"And it could have stopped there, (but) instead Jesus adds something that was not requested from the doctor of the law. He says: 'The second then is similar to this: love your neighbor as yourself,'" which is also a biblical reference to the Book of Leviticus, the Pope noted.
The Bishop of Rome explained how the true novelty Jesus brings to these commandments is that he puts them together, revealing that they are inseparable and complimentary, "(like) two sides of the same coin."
One of the most visible signs of God's love that a Christian can give is to love one's neighbor, he said, noting how Jesus doesn't put love of God at the top of the list of commandments, but rather "at the center, because it's from the heart that everything begins and to which it must come back."
In the Old Testament, to live in the image of God who is holy included caring for the most vulnerable, such as the orphan and the widow, the Pope observed, explaining that Jesus completes the law by uniting in himself the human and the divine, which now become a single mystery of love.
"In light of the word of Jesus, love is the measure of the faith, and faith is the spirit of love," he said. "No longer can we separate a religious life from service to our brothers, to those concrete brothers we meet."
"No longer can we divide prayer, the encounter with God in the sacraments, from listening to others, from closeness to their lives, especially to their wounds."
The Roman Pontiff concluded his address by pointing that what Jesus gives us in the day's Gospel passage are the fundamental criterion on which to base our lives.
Jesus also and above all gives us his Spirit, the Pope noted, who teaches us to love God and our neighbors "with a free and generous heart" as the Lord did.
"With the intercession of Mary, our mother, let us open ourselves to receive this gift, (and) to walk in the law of love."
After leading faithful in the Marian prayer, Pope Francis drew attention to the example of Blessed Mother Assunta Marchetti, who was beatified yesterday in Brazil, and praised her for her tireless work in helping Italian immigrants.
He closed by offering personal greetings to various communities present, giving an affectionate blessing, and asking for prayers.