Grace to you!
An American spent some time in Eastern Europe. The experience was an eye-opener and revealing. Her language was different. Her dress code was slightly different from those she met. According to her, “In those months, I appreciated what it feels like to be a stranger in a foreign land.”
One could theorize about the situation of orphaned children. The story is actually different when one is an orphan or has seen it first hand from kids who never had someone to call a mom or a dad. When we open our hearts to the realities around us and begin to see things, not only in our own light but also in the light of another, then we would have a fresh, enriching perspective about love of neighbor.
Many of us learned the Golden Rule right from high school, some from when we were in elementary school. “Do unto others as you would want done unto you.” It is a biblical message. It is equally one of those ethical rules inscribed in many cultures. We chant it. We memorize it. How often do we live it?
If we behave in ways we want others to behave, perhaps we are heading in the right direction in implementing what the Lord says is the summary of the Law: Love of God and love of neighbor. 1 John 4:20 will connect the love of God with the love of neighbor: If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
This was one of the lessons from the biblical historical book of Exodus, chapter twenty-two. Having freed the people of Israel from Egypt, God gave the law and told them how to relate with one another. He made special emphasis on care for the weak, the poor, “orphans” and widows. He reminded the people that when they settle in the land He had promised, they should not forget from where they come.
God reminded them that since they were once aliens in another country and saw how it feels to be treated as a “second-class” citizen, they better treat others with equal respect. In particular, they should not treat an alien, the poor, a person whose dad is passed or a widow, in such a way as to remind them they have no one to fight for them and their rights.
These groups of people, called the poor of the Lord (the anawim), have one thing in common. They are those who have no one to fight for them. Those bowed down (original meaning of the Hebrew word anawim), the vulnerable, the exploited and the marginalized. I believe the Lord’s instruction relates to how to deal with anyone who doesn't seem to have the same support system or privileges we have. Do unto them how I would want done unto me. This is love of neighbor 101.
If everyone behaves towards others the way that they would love to be treated, we wouldn’t be having all these painful stories of abuse, exploitation, racism and injustice of the worst order. This may sound like an unrealistic ideal. Isn’t it the kind of life believers should lead?
I’m reminded to reexamine my life and assess whether my love of God (worship/religion) also inspires me to love my neighbor? Some simple ways I would know include the following: How do I treat my coworker, my friends, relatives, and my spouse? How do I treat those who seem to be my enemies? Do I have keen interest in helping the poor and the needy? Or am I driven by only what is about me, the ego-drive?
Praying that God will give us the grace of love—love of God and love of my neighbor. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Sunday Week 30 A: Ex 22:20-26; 1 Thes 1:5c-10; Mt 22:34-40]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.