Thus says the LORD: “………You shall not do wrong to any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.” Exodus 22:21-22.
Today’s gospel is another strong summons to the center of the Christian faith, to love God, neighbor and self, or, put another way, love and all else follows. Hence we rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and help those who need help. It might seem Pollyanna-ish, but what is wrong with that? Nothing. It does not mean being annoyingly upbeat in a terrible situation, but it does mean that hope is never extinguished because you never give up on the goodness of God. Remember Jesus in his last breath committed his soul to his Father in hope. The English martyrs about to endure the most terrible of public executions forgave those who had brought them to that point, and expressed joy as they were going to God. I think even Pollyanna might have wavered in that situation! Hence real, true love conquers all. Today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus puts some flesh to that demand. It reminds the Hebrews that they too were once aliens when they were in Egypt, hence they were ordered to treat aliens among them without any prejudice or dishonor, and also to take care of the weakest members of their community. That Hebrew injunction continued through the centuries to Jesus’ teaching and example, and right down to today. We today are to do exactly the same, and treat the alien and the weak in our midst with dignity and love. Nothing has changed! We are all God’s children whether we like it or not!
Well, there is the teaching. We might accept it in our heart, but it requires that we act on it; after all, actions mean much more than just words. Look at Mother Teresa above. She depended on money sent to her from those who admired her work and wanted to help in any way they could. Her Missionaries of Charity continue her work, hoping and praying that their work will lessen the world’s suffering. Their joy is in seeing those in their charge grow, educated and strong, to become missionaries in their own way, fired by today’s divine exhortation to love. Jesus said that we will always have the poor among us (Matthew 26:11) so that work with the poor will never end; but that is all the reason why more should be done, not less. So whether it is in donating funds to help good causes, volunteering to help, praying for those who are suffering and those who are helping, every one of us can do something, hence fulfill the command to love. And the more each of us can do, the better.
We are coming to the end of the church’s year, and lessons like today’s are reminders of the basics of our faith. This is what we are all called to do in one way or another. St. Paul sums it up nicely in 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Pretty clear, as ever, now all it needs is some positive action on our part. The needs are great, so off we go….
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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