November 4, 2018
The Scribe was a sincere man who asked Jesus if he could boil down the
613 commands of the Torah into one pithy summary. He got his answer. Then he repeats Jesus’ words to show that he got it and was really listening to him. Jesus is pleased that he has been heard and understood and the incident ends. Class dismissed. And there it is, this teaching, forever enshrined in our texts and in our liturgies. It needs the dress, the clothing, the flesh and blood of everydayness to get into our conduct.
We grow up with this commandment: love your neighbor as you love yourself,” at home, on the playground, at school, in the office, in our politics, in our sharing of our resources with those we love and those no one loves. The rule of love. God’s love made manifest here and now. At the border, in the neighborhood, on campus, with our enemies, around our tables, at this table, with children, in worship, with those in the church who may disagree with us, when singing a hymn we don’t like but someone else probably does. When crying out for peace and calling for an end to war, when speaking for those who have no voice, when welcoming all sinners and saints, when challenging the world’s priorities of wealth and success, when speaking out against acts of violence or racial hatred or state-sponsored terrorism. If we don’t talk about the rule of love here, where else will you have the chance?
But Pope Francis and many others have been expanding our answer to the question, “who is my neighbor?”
One of our neighbors is someone we will never see, hug, converse with. Someone who is a family member that we will never know. A person who will have dreams, desires and fears that we will never comprehend or realize. But we may be able to show charity.
The people I speak of are our descendants, the generations that will succeed us, whom we may never know.
Pope Francis has warned us about the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. He said: “Once we start to think of about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who follow us ... What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.”
The Pope and the certainly the Gospels call us to a change in lifestyles. We need to be educated in these issues of ecology. I have learned much from the series offered by our Green Team and Sr. Mary Sullivan on this tropic and the reflections that the Team has offered us in the bulletin. There are many practical suggestions offered by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si. Let me mention just a couple that I have been working on: turning off unnecessary lights. Another; Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.
Will these small acts and others help such a huge problem? Pope Francis also says: “We must not think these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they will call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread. Furthermore, such actions can restore our sense of self-esteem; they can enable us to live more fully and to feel that life on earth is worthwhile.
Pope Francis invites us to pray:
“Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one ...
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction ...
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace. Amen.