Only Love Reveals God

Below is a homily delivered by His Grace Bishop Ignjatije of Branicevo, pictured above with me and my little kum Nikolaj Krsic at the Diocesan Days in California. The sermon was loosely translated:

“…Today’s story, or today’s event, transcribed by the Holy Apostle and Evengelist Luke, a meeting between Christ and, as it is says there, a Jew who was truly for the law and that things be done according to the old way and that nothing changes. And he wanted to test the Lord, to see whether He, too, respects the Law of Moses. The Lord, knowing this, asks him what does it say in that Law of Moses.

Of course, the man replied that its written that we love the Lord God with all of one’s soul, strength, mind, but also one’s neighbor as oneself. Yet, that which is not written in the Law of Moses – and what the Lord now wants to tell this man, and in that manner He wants to tell us – and that is that it does not say in the Law of Moses that the Jewish man love a Samaritan, to love those who are, in any way, sinful and who are not of the same Jewish nationality.

And the Lord tells this story and He chooses these people [characters], among other things, He shows that this martyr who was beaten and brought to near death by theives was not helped by neither a Jew, the Jewish priest, nor that Levite, who is also Jewish but he was helped by a regular, ordinary person who was a Samaritan; for the Samaritans and Jews didn’t really get along as that usually occurs in life. Not only among nations but also people; people don’t get along because it’s a result of sin to not be able to stand the other person. The first thing that man did as a sin is that he hated God, as that other, or he didn’t want Him and only then every other person, after that first sin, he hates and considers his enemy. And the Lord speaks of this now as a virtue, in relation to the Old Law, according to the old way, the way this man thought the law is to be kept, and the Lord tells him something which the man didn’t even anticipate. And which always happens when something new appears, it affects us and we don’t desire anything new. In that way the Jewish people didn’t want Christ who, in fact, brought something new. He brought grace, as the Apostle Paul says, He brought love and not the law. And so this Samaritan who showed love is the neighbor and the Lord tells him, go and do likewise.

But something I wanted to especially point out from this morning’s gospel story is that this commandment – to love God, contains also the commandment to love our neighbors. And that love for our neighbors, to love them as they are. We usually love our own. And so when the other person is not related to us or our neighbor we like them but somehow we want them to be like us, to be similar to us, to be how we think they should be. However, being that every person is an unrepeatable being; and such love, which implies that you love someone and make them into what you are, that’s not love that’s egoism. When in that person you, in fact, love yourself.  True love is to love someone as they are. For this reason the Lord stresses that, when He says that love for our enemies is divine love, pure love. Because our enemy is neither similar to us, nor does he do what we want to do …. that’s an enemy. And he calls us to the Lord. Our love must be free, because you want to love someone not because they are like this or that. That’s how the Lord loves us. He doesn’t love us because of what good we have done to Him, we crucified His Son. But He loves us because He wants to love us. And with that free love of His He makes us unrepeatable, singular beings, He makes us so precious that He gives His life for us. Just as when we love someone so much, so deeply that we could give our lives for them, when, in fact, in that person we see God. That’s why the Holy Fathers say, only love reveals God. And so the great Apostle John says we can’t know God through knowledge, only through love….To love someone sincerely means to reveal God among us, for God is love. To Him be glory and honor. Amen.

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