Caring for the Needs of Our Neighbor

St. Francis de Sales often preached on the proclamation of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Starting with the fact that the dignity of the human person lies in being called to loving union with God in Christ, it follows for St. Francis that the strongest force in the universe is love. Only love can explain God’s primordial and free decision to bring about a creation to which he gave himself in personal union, first in the Incarnate One and, in light of Christ, to each human person in grace and glory. And love alone shows how the Christian is, in freedom and personal responsibility, to respond to God and to reach out to the neighbor, especially to the neighbor in need. This love will be a gentle force characterized by persuasion and a deep awareness of thedignity of the other. It will invite, even entice, but never force or compel the other’s freedom. It will act toward the neighbor exactly the way God has acted toward the human family in creation and in Christ; in a gentle, persuasive, attractive and inviting love.

St. Francis would endorse the sentiment expressed in the musical Les Miserables: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” It is abundantly clear from the Gospels that jesus identified with the needy, the poor, the outcast. Therefore, it is clear that in the Salesian tradition to hear “the cry of the poor” calls for a response made with zeal and energy because this is the will of God.

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