Sunday’s Gospel is pretty clear. That’s what I like about Jesus (Well, it’s one of the things I like about Him anyway! ) With Jesus, when He wants to get His point across quickly there’s no beating around the bush, no wiggle room to change things later, and no way to make His words fit my life.
I must make my Life fit His Words.
The Pharisees were very different in their use of language and, hoping to use skilled wording to counter Jesus’ Good name and growing popularity, they asked which of the Commandments is greatest.
Jesus, in His Wisdom, didn’t choose one, but took two unstated Commandments and used them to embrace the rest.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Love God. Love your neighbor.
Simple, yet SO difficult.
I Love my children, even when they exhaust me, aggravate me, disappoint me, embarrass me, and anger me.
I will always Love them.
I Love my Mother. Although we are very different people and she drives me crazy sometimes (sorry Mom! ) there is so much Good in her that I know the other stuff is just surface stuff.
I Love my friends though sometimes cringe over things they do, I LOVE them and can never express my full gratitude for how they’ve been there for me, even at times when I didn’t deserve them.
But there are people who are more challenging to Love.
If you have suffered at the hands of another, you know what that means. Those treated wrongly at work by a supervisor or unjustly accused of wrongdoing by a colleague, those bullied in school or in activities, those left out, unnoticed, and seemingly unwanted, those suffering in the home where they should feel safest through abandonment, divorce, neglect, or abuse, those people and more know how hard it is to Love someone who is wrong, who has let Satan take over his heart and mind, someone who, unbeknownst to him, is losing the battle for his soul as well.
But that is what we are called to do.
Love All God’s children.
While going through my divorce, I read Sunday’s Gospel over and over many times, “But God…do you know what he did today??? Surely God, you’re on my side in this right! Did you see that text message he sent? Did you see them together? Do you know what he did to my children? You don’t want those children being treated this way do you God???”
When I was feeling brave or reckless or when I just figured God knew my every thought anyway so what difference did it make to put my thoughts into words, I’d voice these kinds of questions. It was a lame effort to justify acting in an unloving manner, to explain away the text message I just sent, to let God know x deserved what he got – and more.
And each time, later, in a quiet moment, I’d hear God whisper…
Did that make you happy?
Part of my body would clench and I would sometimes laugh. When I had a good comeback or a great punchline, I was proud of those moments (Sometimes I still am. I am not particularly good at comebacks so I tend to get a little thrill when I have a good one! ).
But the truth is, even that pride, that little thrill, and that little bit of “happiness” for lack of a better word for it, that I got after a great response did not compare to the Joy I got when I turned the other cheek. It didn’t compare to the Strength I found in myself while my x used his derogatory comments to show weakness yet again.
True Joy comes from the Strength of the Holy Spirit showing us how to act in a Loving manner sometimes simply by not acting in a nonLoving manner.
One of the things I like most about the passage from Sunday’s Gospel is that Jesus never tells us to LIKE our neighbor. He tells us to Love our neighbor.
For better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
till death do us part.
Our vows do not tell us to Like one another.
Nor do they tell us to Love till divorce do us part.
When one spouse makes a bad decision, he leaves a mark on his soul.
Do not allow that mark to spread to your soul, to your children’s soul, and do not be responsible for that black mark spreading like spilled ink across the page of your x’s soul, across the page on which the rest of his story is yet to be discovered.
Treating the other person with Love, a person you don’t like, whether you are in a struggling marriage or a dead one, whether it is a overbearing supervisor at work or an obnoxious customer at the local deli, has less to do with their worthiness of your Love than it does with your ability to Give Love and the Lord’s ability to let that Love Grow.
Love the Lord your God.
Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.
The whole law and the prophets
depend on these two commandments.
And so does your Peace and True Joy.
When Jesus calls you to Love your neighbor, not the neighbor who is easy to Love, but the one who is impossible to like, what excuses do you give? What do you say to yourself and to others that makes unloving actions acceptable and even praiseworthy?
What will you tell Jesus when He asks why you should receive His Love, but x should not receive your Love? What will you say when He asks why you were too good to Love x when Jesus does not feel He is not too good to Love him?
Be just a bit more like Jesus today. How can you act in a Loving manner toward someone you don’t like today?