Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus says that the whole law depends on love of God and love of neighbor. I want to reflect on the love of neighbor. For many, to love is equivalent to being a nice guy, or in Flannery O’Connor’s formulation, “having a heart of gold.” Now, there is nothing in the world wrong with being a nice guy or having a heart of gold, but you can easily achieve both of those states and not have love.
For love is not really about fitting in and being friendly; it is willing the good of the other as other. It is wanting what is best for another person and then doing something about it. And this means that real love can be as tough as nails or as disagreeable as a slap in the face—indeed, in Dostoevsky’s phrase, something “harsh and dreadful.”
Compelling an addict to get help or questioning a dysfunctional style of life both involve the willing of the good of the other—and neither will cause people to characterize you as a nice guy. This is why the God who is love is not a kindly Santa Claus who magically makes troubles disappear.