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Love, Liberty and Justice

by Msgr. Robert L. Stern

In the code of legal holiness of the book of Leviticus, it states, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Saint Luke tells us that on one occasion Jesus was challenged to give his interpretation of this law of Moses, “And who is my neighbor?,” his challenger asked.

Jesus’ answer was a story, the story of a Samaritan who went to extraordinary lengths to care for an afflicted and halfdead Jew – his traditional enemy – that he encountered on the desert road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

The meaning of the story is that our neighbor isn’t just our kind, the one next door; he’s anyone in need who crosses our path.

Usually we think of someone afflicted and in need in very tangible terms. How can I help bring food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, or medical care to the sick?

But there are also needs and hungers of another order, needs and hungers of the spirit. Our neighbor may need schools, education, a place of worship, or instruction in faith. Above all else he needs respect for his fundamental God-given dignity as a human person and for the rights that flow from it.

The United States’ Declaration of Independence says it well:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…

Loving our neighbor includes respecting his fundamental human rights and helping him to achieve and safeguard them – it means doing all that we possibly can to achieve and safeguard justice and peace.

In their November statement, Toward Peace in the Middle East: Perspectives, Principles and Hopes, the bishops of the United States tackled head on how to apply the teachings of Jesus to the tangled social and political situation of that troubled part of the world.

No, the bishops aren’t mixing up religion with politics. Politics is concerned with the practical, day-to-day decisions that make society function. The bishops are courageously challenging us with the fundamental principles needed for any political judgment.

Principles aren’t solutions; they are what make solutions possible. The principles the bishops affirm give a moral and spiritual foundation for the search for justice and peace in the Middle East.

The prophet Isaiah once described the work of the Messiah as “…he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.”

The Lord that we hail as Messiah asks each of us to help bring justice and peace to those who suffer its lack.

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Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA



Tags: Middle East Unity