The first reading from the Book of Leviticus is called by technical writers as the code of holiness because it begins with the Lord speaking to us, “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy,”
The commandments can be capsulized into two: Love God and love yourself as you love your neighbor. In the Old Testament, neighbor is someone who loves you, somebody you love, fellow Israelites. The neighbor referred to is not a Gentile, not a leper or a sinner.
In the New Testament, Jesus defines neighbor more particularly. He tells us the real definition of neighbor – neighbor is everybody. He further adds that neighbor is He Himself.
These two concepts are not found in the Old Testament. The Lord defines who a neighbor is. A neighbor is everybody, a neighbor is the Lord. That is why, whatever we do to our neighbor, we actually do to God. This is not found in the Old Testament. This is only found in the Gospel.
Neighbor is everybody because love plays no favorites, love destroys biases, love destroys prejudices, love destroys all walls of division. Neighbor is everybody, neighbor is Jesus.
In the life of St. Vincent de Paul, we find this lived clearly and concretely. St. Vincent de Paul was the apostle of the poor. He founded so many orphanages and hospitals for the care of God’s underprivileged. Most often, when he was at prayer with his companions, someone would knock on the door of the chapel asking for medicine, for cure, food or clothing. St. Vincent would leave his prayer and attend to them. His companions confronted him about the fact that he should not leave God during his prayers. St. Vincent replied, “I am leaving God for God.”
It is very easy to discover God in the church, but it takes a lot of effort to discover God outside the church. The presence of God inside the church is as real as His presence outside the church. God is present in the poor, the marginalized and the sick.
St. Vincent knew this. He was leaving God for God. Remind yourself of St. Vincent each time you leave the church. Tell yourself, “I am leaving God to see God in the whole world”
Let us pray that every time we see somebody, we will see the face of God shining forth. Let us pray that others will likewise see God shining through us.
NEIGHBOR IS JESUS CHRIST
Only Jesus, Always Jesus