Paul’s comments on love are given in the context of justice. His words preceding today’s readings tell us “Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” (Romans 13:7).
This differs from the old covenant wherein the Law was the means of justice.
Jesus makes all things new and Paul tells us “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). Thus it is out of love that we pursue justice. Love for God and love for neighbor.
This love is not optional. It is not like romantic love or brotherly love, which allows us to choose those on whom we bestow it. This is the self-sacrificing love of God for man. This type of love we are obligated to reciprocate and practice among one another. It is this “agape” love that motivates us to seek out those who have taken themselves out of communion with God and His church and try to win them back.
If we truly practice this love and hold it within our hearts then how can we not reach out to minister to our brothers and sisters, especially those who have removed themselves from our communion? We are in fact expected to do so.
Justice then, is our moral imperative; it is our goal. Love is the means by which we achieve it.
23RD Sunday in Ordinary Time