Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus names love of God and neighbor when a scholar challenges him to identify the greatest commandment.

Since love (caritas) is what God is, it is also that virtue that conforms us most dramatically to God. Thomas Aquinas says, in eloquently simple language, that caritas is friendship with God. In his great farewell discourse, offered the night before his death, Jesus says to his disciples that he no longer calls them servants, but friends—and in this he opens up a new world.

In any other religion, a human being could be called, vis-à-vis God, a creature, a penitent, an eager supplicant, but only in Christianity could she be called an intimate of God. This is true because in Christ, God has become one of us, thereby establishing a parity beyond our capacity even to imagine.

The participation in what God is is what Aquinas means by caritas, friendship with God. The moral challenge, of course, is to live out the implications of that friendship, listening and speaking to God, obeying the promptings of his voice, opening one’s heart to him, and, above all, loving what he loves—which is to say, everyone and everything.