Pope: Christians can’t pick and choose which neighbor to love

VATICAN CITY—The commandment to love one’s neighbor does not mean Christians get to choose who gets help and who doesn’t, Pope Francis said.

“It is not about pre-selecting my neighbor,” he said. “This isn’t Christian, it is pagan.”

Christians must encounter everyone with the heart and eyes of Jesus, listening to and being near those in need, the pope said before reciting the Angelus Nov. 4 with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Mk 12:28-34) in which Jesus says the greatest of all the commandments is to “love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” followed by the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

The two commandments — like two sides of the same coin — cannot be separated and, therefore, must both be lived, the pope said.

However, he said, Mark does not worry about specifying who qualifies as a neighbor in his Gospel account because one’s neighbor “is the person I encounter on my journey during my day.”

“It is about having eyes to see (this person) and the heart to desire his wellbeing. If we practice seeing with Jesus’ gaze, we will always be ready to listen and near those who are in need,” he said.

While people’s needs require an appropriate response, they demand first and foremost a loving and caring approach, he added.

Someone who is hungry, for example, “needs not only a bowl of soup, but also a smile, to be listened to, and also a prayer, perhaps done together,” the pope said.

The day’s Gospel reading calls on Christians to not just address people’s most urgent material needs, but above all to be attentive to their need for friendship, meaning in life and tenderness, he said.

“It’s about avoiding the risk of being a community that is made up of many initiatives but few relationships,” offering many services and little fellowship, Pope Francis said.

By Carol Glatz/Catholic News Service

Photo, Vatican News: A crowd stands in the rain to hear Pope Francis during the Angelus in St Peter’s Square.