By Fr. Humberto Palomino, PES
“Love” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in our culture. We talk about love often, but at the same time, we don’t really give love its due. We act as if loving is simply a matter of feeling good feelings, but our readings today remind us that the love God wants for us is deeper and more beautiful than that.
In our Gospel today, a scholar of the law correctly identifies the central command of our faith, while speaking with Jesus: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” [Lk 10: 27] This wise man realizes that the love God speaks of isn’t just a conceptual or visceral kind of love. He sees that to love his neighbor is a choice that is not always easily made. He wants to understand who his neighbor is, so that he can love as he is meant to love.
The Good Samaritan
Our Lord uses the familiar story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate. A man is attacked by robbers while traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. He is injured and in need. Two men from his own community and faith pass by without helping him, but a foreigner and political enemy of the people of Israel stops to give him aid. This is a man who doesn’t have a legal obligation to help, or even a familial or cultural obligation toward the injured man. He likely felt fear at the idea of stepping forward to help in these circumstances, and might even have been repulsed by the injured man who came from a different culture and faith. Yet despite his feelings and fears, he acted with love.
This is a practical kind of love, that doesn’t think about how it will be received or whether it will be returned. As we hear in our first reading, it “is not too mysterious or remote…it is not up in the sky…nor is it across the sea.” Rather, as Moses says to the people of Israel in our first reading, “It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out. [Dt 30: 11-14]
Carrying It Out
Sounds simple, right? But each of us knows that loving when we don’t feel love is no easy thing. It takes trust and courage to forget ourselves in this way, and to love without expecting anything in return.
St Therese of Lisieux gives us the supernatural motivation to act with love in this way, despite our feelings. She said to a Carmelite novice, who was struggling to find the courage of the Good Samaritan:
You complain about what should cause you the greatest happiness. Where would be your merit if you must fight only when you felt the courage? What matters is if you have none, provided that you act as if you had! If you feel too slothful to pick up a piece of thread, and nevertheless you do it for the love of Jesus, you have more merit than if in a moment of fervor you were to accomplish something of far greater importance. So instead of being sorrowful, rejoice to see that in letting you feel your weakness the good Master provides you with an opportunity of gaining for Him a greater number of souls.”
We have only to carry it out, for the sake of souls!
At St Mark’s, the month of August has long been dedicated to Project Home. Carolyn Hall and our small gym are transformed into a temporary home for St Paul families experiencing homelessness. I encourage you to take this opportunity to give yourself, like the Good Samaritan. As you can imagine, we are in need of volunteers to take an evening of overnight shift with our guests. For more information, and to sign up for a shift, please visitstmark.xyz/projecthome.
Please also consider donating items to help meet the basic needs of these families (towels, washcloths, feminine hygiene projects, deodorant, etc), as they begin to put their lives in order. And please pray for these families, that they will experience the love of Christ during their time at St Mark’s.