Love Your Neighbour As Yourself


Love Thy Neighbour











“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your might... and you must love your neighbour as yourself.”

When I worked in the Amazon in South America, I met a young lad called Jonathan and heard his story.

When he was ten, his mother died. Three months later, his father abandoned him and his two sisters, emigrated to a rich country and was never heard of again. The three children were taken in by an uncle who had a farm in a very poor village deep in the rain-forest. One day, when Jonathan was 12, he and his sisters did not have enough food to eat. So Jonathan climbed a mango tree to try to get some fruit. His uncle had told him not to but he said that he couldn’t stand to see his sisters hungry. He fell thirty feet out of the tree and broke his back. He was paraplegic - paralysed from the middle of his chest downwards. So they carried him on a stretcher twenty days walk through the forest to the nearest town where there was a little hospital.

And there he lay for a year. And at the end of that year in hospital, he was in a bad way despite all the doctors & nurses tried to do for him. He was so thin that he was just skin and bones. And he had pressure sores all over his back. He was in constant pain and obviously dying. His uncle and sisters cared for him as best they could. But he was getting worse and worse. So they decided that they wanted to take him home – they couldn’t bear for him to die in hospital. But they couldn’t possibly carry him twenty days journey back into the forest. He was far too weak to survive the journey. So, they appealed to the local church community for help. And God laid it upon the hearts of their next door neighbours – Harry and Colleen – a married couple with their own children - to take in the whole family and care for them. In particular, Colleen looked after Jonathan  devotedly for the six months until he died. And when he died she wept for him as for one of her own.

Of all the people I have known, she was the one who I believe loved the Lord her God with all her heart, with all her soul and with all her mind. And she loved her neighbour as herself.

Paul O'Reilly SJ