The first reading at Mass today from John’s first epistle begins with the rather blunt statement, “Anyone who says they love God but hates his brother is a liar.”
What a wonderful, I could say, expression of the reality of the Incarnation. The Son of God becoming human, and although he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, He remains here on earth, ever and really present in the Eucharist. He also remains very present in His Body, the Church.
As we know, we are the Body of Christ. We are the People of God. We are an organism, you could say, the body of the Incarnate Lord in a certain sense. That is why it is so painful to hear someone say that they are a follower of Jesus, but they reject His Body, the Church. It really cannot be done, despite their assertion. That is why we cannot really say to a human being, “I love you” but reject their body, “but I don’t want to look at, touch, feed, nourish or value your physical needs.” That is why St. John can say, “You cannot say you love God but hate your brother.”
To not love one’s brother, who we can see and who is Jesus in the disguise of a person in need, is to deny the reality of the Incarnation, at least at that moment and in that time.
What did St. Paul hear when he was struck from the horse? Not, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute the Church?” but “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” The Church, i.e., our brothers and sisters, are Christ.
Loving God without acts of charity toward our brothers and sisters eventually becomes adherence to a philosophy or an idea, not a person. Loving God by loving our brother is true religion, true faith which conquers the world, because it reflects the central tenet of the Christian faith, “God became man and dwells among us.”