Commentary on the Gospel of
Today’s readings all tie together in the last part of the gospel in the familiar quote: You will love your neighbor as yourself. As I reflect on this readings and write this reflection, I’m in a unique position: I’m sitting in a third world country having just completed a mission with my nursing students. I was clearly able to see these commandants in action as well as glimpse into understanding the concept of being an “Other” – an outsider, an alien.
Our first reading admonishes us to understand that others are not always like us – that others may not always enjoy the blessings that we too frequently take for granted. The Hebrews are reminded in this passage that they, too, were aliens in a foreign land. We are all aliens in one way or another. For us this week it was very real. Many of us did not look the same as the people we served especially my students with blue eyes and blond hair. And for all of us on the mission, the spoken language was not our own. Clearly some were better than others at communicating but we all had feelings of being inadequate. A key part of our reflections together was our being different and the angst of not being able to communicate properly. We recognized how blessed we were to be in the presence of a loving group of people who accepted our differences and our feeble attempts at their language. But . . . because of this unconditional acceptance from them, we were able and willing to try and speak the language and for all of us, we got better (albeit not perfect) everyday. We thought of those who come into our country and how quickly some judge and berate their attempts to use our language. The idea of being neighborly and opening one’s home to strangers came easily to so many here. They open their arms and hearts – sharing what little they have with love and joy. This reading prescribes how to treat others. When we tend to others in this way with an open heart and mind, we are blessed with humility and the opportunity to walk in solidarity with them – hand in hand, heart to heart, human with human.
Many times in my reflections I refer to the Ignatian charisms or values. One of these is "Men and Women for and with Others" and it is perfect in considering these readings. It is a mandate for all of us to treat others well, with respect and love – including family members, friends, and strangers. Our gospel completes the story, Jesus basically reiterates the message from our Exodus reading and puts it in terms that all can understand. He updates it to be contemporary yet responsive to the Pharisees testing. His teaching is consistent with the law and the Pharisees are hard pressed to deny what Jesus says as being the most important. The perfect guideline/model for living a life. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Simply the greatest commandment . . . And then the second is how we put the first into action. We can do this through mission work or just by being present for those around us, by being kind and thoughtful to all neighbors, and by recognizing the opportunities to see God in All Things – another Ignatian charism. If we truly live this way everything else is details.