When I was young, my favorite show was Gillian’s Island. It was a show about seven castaways stranded on a deserted island. The show stopped production in 1967 but the reruns aired during my childhood and I would watch them all, again and again. Each character had their own quirky personality, and I grew to know each one quite well. The fact is, I knew more about the characters on that show than people in my own family or in my own school.
In our digital environment, it’s even easier for us to get know people online – social media influencers, celebrities, artists and politicians. But how well do we know the people in our neighborhood, our families or our churches. Jesus was clear when he said the two greatest commandments we must follow are to love God and to love our neighbor. It’s true that our neighbor can be someone in a foreign country who needs our help. But it’s most likely, when we think of a neighbor, we think of the person closest to us.
God wants us to know and love the people closest to us. That can be messy. People close to us can hurt our feelings and they can reject us. Who wants to risk that? With God’s grace, we can focus on the people around us and grow closer to them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “By loving one another, disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive.” Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9).