Service and prayer, together, help to facilitate an intimate relationship with God. Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est, teaches that “love of neighbor is a path that leads to encounter with God” (16). The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and prayerful engagement with the word also place people directly in God’s presence.
An ever deepening relationship with God—through active participation in prayer, the sacraments, and action for social justice—makes it possible, explains Benedict, to “love even the person whom I do not like or even know” (18). In other words, our love-inspired action should not be limited to those near to us, who care for us and we for them. Our love-inspired action should extend to those whom we do not know, including our enemies.
Our fundamental dignity as human beings rests not on what we do or what we own but on who we are, made in the image and likeness of God. In response to the dignity of others and as an expression of our fundamental worth as human beings, we can provide for both the material and spiritual needs of our neighbors. According to the pope, “Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave” (18).
See: Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est (2005). Parenthetical citation to paragraph numbers provided above, after each quote.
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Religious Studies