The rule of the Fraternity of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem was to serve the sick and the poor. This ancient tradition has been fulfilled by the Knights of St John through more than nine centuries of service, even when they were engaged in courageous battle. It continues today with the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta. This rule is based on the command of our Lord Jesus to love our neighbors.
That command sounds sort of easy, if you like your neighbor. But what if you don’t like some of your neighbors? How can you “love” them? Let’s face it; some of our neighbors do not make it easy to like them, let alone to “love” them. Sometimes they make us feel the exact opposite.
The scriptures clarify this command by telling us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”, or “do nothing to another that you would not want to be done to yourself”. These are not only the words of our Savior, but are found in many cultures and faiths.
The “love” Jesus spoke of, and still speaks of, is not the same as the personal “love” we feel for our family and friends, for our Church and country. It is not that warm fuzzy feeling. Rather, it starts as the willingness to recognize that the other person has rights, the same as you do. It is to accept that the other might be of a different age, size, color, national origin, physical condition, educational level, social background, and even might be a little strange – or maybe a lot strange. It is to know that he or she might not like you, and that you might feel the same about him or her.
In spite of the fact that you do not feel friendly toward the person, or might even feel unfriendly, it is your willingness to see him or her as another human, and if he or she needs help which you can provide, you should do so. This does not mean giving money or anything which in fact might be harmful. But you should not do anything against the person which you would not want done to you. Treat that person like another child of God, even if that person does not treat you the same. You need not want to hang out with him or her, but you should pray for that person.
The code of chivalry, the rule that all good knights lived by, and live by to this day, is to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to help the helpless, to care for those who need care, even if a wounded enemy. A good knight is obedient to the Lord; he loves his neighbor, even if he doesn’t like him.
And so we remember especially at his time the song of the angels: “Peace on earth to men of good will.” Be of good will -- by loving your neighbor you may find peace.