“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [...] ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV) From a young age, these verses have been ingrained into my brain as the most important aspects of the faith that I was raised with. Time and time again, year after year of Religion class, we were told that these two lines were the most important commandments we have been given, and were to be regarded above all other thoughts and beliefs. Similar to this commandment, the secular term ‘to treat others as you would want to be treated’ was another major lesson that I was raised with. Based on the fact that this commandment has become the most important lesson I have learned as a child indicates how important of a role love plays in my religion. My religion, and the love that I have been able to grow and deepen as life continues, has shaped me into the adult that I am today.
As a raised and presently practicing Catholic, it has always been clear that spreading love is the most important lesson that Jesus Christ taught his followers. Through every action, saying, and teaching He gave, He was able to project love on everyone around Him. Through this overwhelming amount of love that He held in His heart, He was able to spread the good news and hope of a new life to so many people. He found the most marginalised, neglected, sick and elderly people and he gave them each an overwhelming amount of love. He was not only spreading a message, but He was also acting as a model for all of us whose faith has stemmed from these teachings. Through the love that He shared with the most mistreated of people, He was able to give joy and hope and strength to their hearts. These actions alone show how important the role of love is in religion, and it is clear how often we are taught this from an early age. Due to the learning and understanding of this message through the years of my life, it would make sense that as Catholics we are to love and support all people, no matter where they come from or what they believe in.
As stated above, the role that love plays is a very significant part of the Catholic faith. All Catholics are told throughout their lives that love is the most important and sacred gift that God has given humanity. We are taught that it is necessary to follow Jesus’ footsteps and spread our love and hope and faith to all those around us, especially those who are less fortunate. We are taught to love all, to take in those neglected, those rejected, the people who Jesus spent his life working for. Love is the piece of our lives that can bring us closest to God and his teachings, and towards the deepest understanding of him possible. Unfortunately, as the world continues to become more modern and secular it seems that the importance of love is something that begins to get lost in the waves of fast-paced, contemporary life. As important as it was to Jesus to spread His love and hope and faith to all of the people around Him, should it be as important for us. However, in order to achieve this, we must be able to understand that there are differences in this world, and that people of all faiths, or no faiths, should be no less deserving of God’s love than we are.
As this world continues to grow and develop in a continually secular way, it is very important for all faiths to come together in a deeper understanding and connection with one another. As Catholics, as Muslims, as Buddhists, as believers of all other faiths, we must stand together in a way that strengthens the hope and love and faith we have in our hearts. It is so important that the love we have in our hearts for God, for our religion, for all things, extends to those who are so different, yet so similar, to us. People of all faiths should stand up for their brothers and sisters of the same or different faiths who are being persecuted against, to show that strength and hope and love will overcome all hate and darkness in this life. It is important within the Catholic faith to spread our love to those around us: to God, to our families, to our neighbours and to our brothers and sisters in faith. As we do this, we must not forget the important lesson that we have been taught our whole lives: to love our neighbours as ourselves. We must understand that ‘neighbours’ is not exclusively in reference to those of the same faith. As Jesus made it clear through his work with the most neglected of society, ‘neighbours’ includes people of all faiths and paths of life, and it is our duty to extend the love that we have so deeply ingrained in our hearts to these neighbours of different faiths as well.
The love that God has gifted us will allow us to empathise with one another. In doing so, we will be able to reach out and understand what people of different faiths believe and why they believe it. We will be able to stop focusing on the differences of each faith, as we have done through so much of our history, and begin to see the striking similarities that lay so close to the surface. If we begin to use the love that God has granted us this way, and stand in solidarity with one another of all faiths, love will spread even further than it does today. The love that Jesus worked so hard to spread, and make clear that it is spread to all people by all people, will blossom into something that can make the world into the place that He envisioned.
Love is so important in the faith that we live in this world today. If we try our best to truly emulate the love that Jesus showed us how to share, then the religions of this world would be so powerful and so beautiful that the world itself would be a different place. If the love that we have been taught about our whole lives, and expected to share and spread our whole lives, could reach past the people of our own faith and group and into the lives of other faiths and places, then the world that Jesus, that Mohammad, that Siddhartha, that all others imagined, would be within our reach.
Jesus was cast down upon and discriminated against for all the love that He shared with those who were deemed unworthy or unforgivable. We have been taught that His sacrifice was for the greater good and forgiveness of all humanity. But we must not forget what He taught us before His sacrifice, what He spent His years of preaching doing. His (then) radical belief to love everyone, and not just Jewish people, was something that put Him in grave danger. It is also something that was the beginning of an entire religion and endless followers. It is something that has brought generations after generations of followers his hope and faith and love. It is something that we are able to venerate and look up to. It is also something that we must begin to emulate and act on, and members of all faiths must begin to act on. There would be so much more hope and love in this world if the religions of the world took their important doctrines of love and spread them past those who they believed belonged. When the world begins to break down barriers and build bridges between one another, the love that we have spent our whole lives learning about will be able to thrive and spread to so many hearts that have never known the joy of it.
Love will change this world. It has already done so, and will continue to do so, if we continue to allow it. It will spread to the most disheartened and the most fearful if we allow for it to be as important to us as Jesus demanded. If this love that has always been so imperative in our churches and synagogues and mosques goes further and reaches into each other’s places of worship, it is possible to imagine how special the world would be. We can imagine the place that Jesus wanted this world to be like. The beauty and faith and love and strength that God granted each human being can thrive in a world full of all-encompassing love. As previously stated, love is the most beautiful thing that God has gifted to humanity, but it is also be the most powerful thing that He has given us. It is our responsibility as Catholics, as Christians and Jews and Muslims and followers of all other faiths, to use this to strengthen humanity, to bring us all closer together, and to love all of those in the deepest and most beautiful ways we possibly can. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [...] ’Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV)