Who Is My Neighbor?
His Grace Bishop
Bishop of Youth
This question was asked of the Lord Jesus Christ by a lawyer to test Him, and
the Lord's response was to tell him the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Lk. 10:
First: Who is a Christian?
A Christian thinks differently from the people of the world; he has a different perspective from the normal human perspective.
A Christian is not one because of his identity or his identity card. He is not a Christian because he is religious or observes the ritual because it is possible to be religious and observe the rituals and still have no depth. This is indicated by the priest who passed by the Samaritan but ignored him and by Levi (that is, a deacon) who also passed by him without paying any attention to him. We can be outwardly Christians, but God is not satisfied with this and constantly wishes to ask us about what is essential in the depths of our beings.
The Christian is not the sectarian intolerant Christian. He is a person who has simply, profoundly, and maybe with difficulty, become united with Christ, or as St. Augustine said after he baptized some pagans, "Rejoice my brothers, for you not only have become Christians, but you have also been anointed." There is a difference between belonging to a religion or sect, or ethnic group and between being a true image of Christ, that is, that Christ should be living within me, in my heart, my thoughts, my feelings, and my whole being. That is why we pay particular attention to the expressions used by St. Paul in which he repeats the word "through." He says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." He also says, "Christ dwells in your hearts through faith."
The Christian does not look upon Christianity as a religion, a sect, an idea,
or as a set of beliefs. All of these are present, but when he ponders the
matter deeply, he discovers that it is life in Christ and through Him, that it
is a personal union with Christ so that the He dwells within the individual.
This is the essence of the Eucharist, for the Lord said, "He who eats My
flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him." This differs from
any other religion or social or reformist ideology. All reformist leaders in
history have championed wonderful ideas and have struggled to apply them and to
persuade others to apply them also, but in the end they died and their ideas
died also. But when Christ gives us beautiful principles, He does not leave us
to adopt these principles, but comes and dwells in us. He is the only leader
who is able to live within his followers. This is what being a Christian
means. The Christian is a vessel in which dwells God's Holy Spirit. This is
how man unites with God and becomes a true Christian.
Second: How Can I become a Christian (practically)?
I believe the Christian can attain this state through repeated prayer until it becomes, for him, as necessary as air. He cannot live without the breath of God. If he imagines that a few moments of prayer are an opportunity to be in the presence of God, or to have fellowship with God, that is not much. But through Christ, we say prayer is an opportunity to absorb divine life or to breathe the divine air. Prayer is an opportunity for our lives to be open to the life of God and for the life of God to open onto our lives. Thus, we take and gain from the divine life. Through prayer, God shapes us exactly like the potter shapes the clay to produce a beautiful object. I believe that our world, our Christianity, and our churches need more prayer. Prayer comforts and transforms us. When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, He was praying, and while He was praying, His appearance was transformed and His became white as snow. We become pure in proportion to what we acquire, to our washing in the divine blood, and to entering into the divine presence. So let us make this promise to God, that we will breathe His divine air in the morning and in the evening, while we are on the street, at work, at school, in our bedrooms, during times of relaxation. We lead a special inner life in which we feel that there is a secret bond between us and Christ. Just as a child is nourished from his mother through the umbilical cord, a Christian's prayer is also an umbilical cord through which he absorbs the divine spirit, and thus enjoys a real life in Christ, who fills His life.
The Christian also needs to read the Bible frequently for its words have transforming power. The Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." (Jn. 15: 2) The Bible also purifies. The person who reads it will discover that the word of God is enlightening, comforting, and cleansing, and imparts a certain sublimity to man. Ghandi is known to have said, "If the Gospel is a crown, the sermon on the mount is the jewel in that crown." Here is an Indian who knew nothing of Christ, but who, when he read the Bible, came close to Christ. How can I hear Your voice, O Lord, through these words? That is why our Church is careful to read many passages to us (9 passages a day). The words of the gospel transformed St. Anthony by making him, with a few worlds, abandon the world and think of eternity. He was not a selfish or introverted person, and when he consecrated himself to Christ in answer to the call, he was able to guide hundreds and thousands. Even today, many hear his story and are influenced by it. So, dear readers, the Bible is essential in imparting to us Christian life and Christian thought.
The Eucharist is a daily means of this union of our beings, not only with Christ because He lives in us, but also with our brothers in church, for we all eat of one bread and drink of one cup. When a Christian approaches the Eucharist, he naturally approaches Christ who loves the world. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." (Jn. 3: 16) When we unite with the Eucharist, we unite with each other and with the universe; in it, we find wheat, and its products, such as yeast, which are then placed in special ovens and so on. A host of believers share in the holy liturgy: angels, and the saints who attend with us, and so we feel that Christian individual is open up to God's universe and not only to his fellow Christians.
We can be filled with Christ through service. Although it is difficult for us
to touch the Lord of glory and receive His blessing like the woman with an issue
of blood did, we can touch Him through His suffering and wounded members. There
are so many bedridden today, either because of handicaps or disease, or old age,
or those who are sad for no reason. As a Christian, every time I come in
contact with one of these wounded members, in fact, I come in contact with the
person of Christ who said, "I was sick and you visited Me, thirsty and you
gave Me to drink, in prison and you visited Me,…etc."
Third: What is the attitude of the Christian to his neighbor and who is his neighbor?
Let us ask this Christian who is now united with Christ who his neighbor is. His answer is that he loves with the heart of Christ, so ask Christ whether He hates anyone? Christ does not know hatred and loves the whole world. He even loved His enemies and those who crucified Him. He knows that the real enemy is not that person or the other, but the real enemy is the idea of sin, the work of Satan, and the evil present in the universe resulting from pollution and the corruption of original nature. This is what makes the other man hostile to me although I am not hostile to him because I know that he is enslaved by other enemies. His and my real enemy is Satan. This is what happened with St. Stephen, the first martyr, when they stoned him; he prayed and forgave his killers. Man's heart is enlarged and filled with love the closer he is to God. He is able to love everyone because he loves with the heart of Christ who dwells within him and with the infinite capacities of this heart, with its depth and piercing insight into who is the real enemy who stands behind my brother; it is not my brother, regardless of what he is, who is the enemy, for in the final analysis, he is my brother.
The Christian leads a Christian life because he loves with the heart of Christ and thinks with the mind of Christ. Before he attacks a thought, opinion, or belief, he attempts to see its good side. He listens to general humane theories of social justice and other matters that he feels serve humanity. He is willing to be open-minded and study and accept them, or on the other hand, to constructively criticize them. He sees the beauty in them even if they also have shortcomings, but he does so with a heart that is free from malice and a mind that is not closed.
The Christian has a different perspective because he is different and thinks with the different mind of Christ. St. Paul says, "But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2: 16) The Christian behaves with the Spirit of Christ who imparts love, plants love, and spreads love everywhere. The Christian does not do anything of himself or of his abilities, but he only reflects the comforting loving and faithful presence of Christ. Thus he is able to achieve something because he has become a small Christian among people.
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