In early February, His Eminence Metropolitan Metropolitan Methodios of Boston participated in a panel discussion held at Boston College, to discuss the theme, "Love Thy Neighbor: Building a Just Society." The discussion revolved around the role of faith, politics, gender and racial equity in the world. In addition to Metropolitan Methodios, panelists included former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Spyridon Pope, the Director of St. Basil Academy in Garrison, NY, Fr. Constantine Sitaras, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Dr. Demetrios Katos, and Dr. Maria Kakavas, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Classical Studies at Boston College. The audience of more than 200 included Orthodox Christian students and clergy, members of the Boston College community, and area guests. Boston College Orthodox Christian Fellowship student Joseph Al-Shanniek moderated the event. Fr. Demetrios Tonias, the Pastor of the Holy Trinity Parish in Concord, NH is the advisor of the Boston College Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Metropolitan Methodios offered the following remarks at the beginning of the program:

Our theme this evening is "Love thy Neighbor: Building a ‘just society' discussing the Role of Faith, Politics and Equity in the world."

As a hierarch of the Church, I believe that it has a crucial role to play in building that "just society" we speak of. And that role is nothing less than to transform a faceless and indifferent society into a community of caring brothers and sisters in the household of God. Its mission is to help form consciousness in the life of society, to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of true justice.

Consciousness, as the original word suggests (con-scientia) is knowledge of self in relation to others (to neighbors).

The Church helps build a "just society" through love of neighbor.

How do we define the word "neighbor"? Who exactly is this neighbor whom we must love?

The answer is found in the Gospel, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all you mind and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10, 27-28). The answer is found in the well known parable of the Good Samaritan. Additionally, our neighbor is identified by Christ as He Himself in the Parable of the Last Judgement.

"I was hungry,
"I was thirsty,
"I was a stranger,
"I was naked,
"I was in prison
"If you did not do it to one of the least of these you did it not to Me" (Matt. 25, 45).

These texts reveal the formula for the spiritual well being for all human beings. To love the other as yourself is to be in communion. To be in communion is to participate in true spiritual life which enables us to extend ourselves beyond ourselves and eventually to God.... For we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. If we do not love our neighbor, we do not love our God. St. John the Evangelist reminds us, "for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen... He who loves God should love his brother also" (John 4, 20-21). Communion of this kind lies at the heart of a just society as we Christians understand it, as Christ and the Apostles have taught us. It is interesting to note that in the Greek language, society and communion are rendered by the same word, "Koinonia".

According to these Christian standards a "just society" is based on the supreme value of unconditional love of God and neighbor. Love is related to justice, because God is love and the source of justice. Justice without love is not justice. It leaves society impoverished.

For Christians, this is clearly revealed throughout the Gospel in the interactions of Christ during his earthly life. The justice of love seeks to justify, to restore, to rehabilitate, to save our neighbor! Love heals and fulfills human society. The justice of love goes beyond the justice of the law.

We build a just society by respecting the sanctity and dignity of every human life.

Ultimately that sanctity has to do with the sanctity of God, because God assumed humanity in his Incarnation. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom taught, in becoming man, God assumed human nature (the flesh of the Church). The dignity of the human person for the Christian stems from the belief that every human being has been created in the image and likeness of God. This means that in encountering one's neighbor, one encounters God's dignity.... One encounters the humanity of God, Christ's body. Christian belief in the Incarnation leads directly to the supreme dignity of the human person.

Since all people share in the divine image, they enjoy and share a basic fundamental human dignity and respect as regards our humanity. All persons are entitled to respectful treatment by others precisely because they are human beings created in the image of God. The moral test for every society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has for the Christian all the elements of this test. What is required of us is unconditional care for the needy, the suffering, the victim, the abandoned, i.e. whoever this neighbor might be! Indiscriminate love for the needy in any society creates a true neighborhood, and a true neighborhood cannot but result in a truly just society. A just society is a loving, caring society.

Sixteen centuries ago, St. John Chrysostom encouraged his congregation, "when you see an impoverished Christian believe that you see an altar. When you see a beggar, far from abusing him, reverence him." (As if he were Christ Himself).

The role of the Church and its members must be to "rightly teach the word of God's truth," thereby encouraging harmony among people.

People of faith must stress the philanthropic aspect of a just society, for this is what the Church really is. Philanthropy manifests sensitivity, common spirit, social solidarity, true koinonia.

We build a just society by loving our neighbor---by living our lives grounded on the eschatological vision of the unity of mankind in God's love. As aspiring citizens of heaven, we must live in spiritual harmony with all people regardless of their affiliation with the Church, regardless of their nationality, their race or their creed. The role of the Christian Faith (and those who espouse it) is to manifest that faith in the world thereby building a community grounded on the tenets of respect for the dignity of every human person.