30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt. 22:34-40)
In the Catholic Church's latest Encyclical letter, Fratellitutti Tutti, of the Holy Father Francis on "Fraternity and Social Friendship," the theme, loving your neighbor, is paramount. Our Sunday's gospel from Matthew reiterates the same thought from the Book of Leviticus, spiritually practicing the double love commandment to love God and neighbor. Unfortunately, the turbulence within our society is causing a disturbance in numerous friendships. Because of civic unrest, our tongues' violent nature, and the conflicts in marriages due to COVID 19, Pope Francis' calls for an awareness of "Fraternity and Social Friendship." Therefore, this encyclical is summoning us to show the double love command, love God, and neighbor.
Interestingly, after reading sections of this encyclical, embracing the other as my neighbor caught my eye. Noticeably, Christians understand what it means to love God, the first act of double love. We pray to God. We love God. We give the homeless money on the streets and bless them by saying, "God bless you." These actions are "nice" because we should show everyone that we love God and are charitable. However, do these actions present the fullest expression of Jesus' spiritual works of justice and mercy? Have we brought dignity to the preferential option for the poor?
My answer, "no." The calling by Pope Francis is to embrace our neighbor, affirming that we are children of God. Pope Francis said that we must first see "our origin in the one Creator as the basis of certain common rights: 'Did not he who made me in the womb also make him? And did not the same one fashion us in the womb?'" (Job 31:15). Do we seek the basis of our neighbor's common good or protect our privileges? Do we see them fashioned from the womb by the same God who blesses us all?
Sirach said, "The compassion of man is for his neighbour, but the compassion of the Lord is for all living beings" (Sir 18:13). The challenge here is that we typically show compassion to people we know and not to foreigners or immigrants. Sirach is teaching us the importance of embracing all living beings. Christians cannot practice a cafeteria attitude of picking which neighbor will receive mercy. Christians must embrace all living beings at all times, something Cain failed to accomplish when demonstratively questioning God, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
The double love command calls us today to show compassion for all living beings; this includes brothers and sisters, republicans, democrats, Whites, Blacks, Native Americans, Korans, Chinese, Latinx, Germans, Jews, Catholics, White Suprismists, Protestants, Jehovah Witnesses, Pimps, Prostitutes, and the homeless, etc. There are no foreigners in God's Kingdom. When we show mercy as God shows mercy to all living beings, we not only touch our neighbor, we touch the face of God. Love your neighbor today.
"This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 Jn. 4:19-21).
Author: Michael P. Howard, MACS