Fr. Glenn: Lifting Up

By Fr. Glenn Jones:

One of the local big news stories last week was the shooting on the movie set of “Rust”, where a well-known actor accidently shot the cinematographer with a prop pistol. But what seemed almost as tragic was the rapidity of which the actor’s political opponents (he is pro-gun control) leapt to attack and ridicule him even before photos of his profound anguish had left the front page. I could not help but recall: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and be displeased…” (Proverbs 24:17), and “…you should not have gloated over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune…over his disaster in the day of his calamity…” (Obadiah 1:12-13) To gloat over others’ grave misfortune is at very best unchristian, and approaches the contemptible. To kick someone when he’s down … well, that just ain’t right.

These came to mind while reviewing the Catholic Mass Gospel for this Sunday (Mark 12:2-34), in which Jesus cites the two great commandments: loving God with whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. So, not rejoicing and another’s calamity would fall under a twofold obligation for the Christian—loving neighbor as oneself, and following the commands of God cited above. Does not Jesus tell us that these two great commandments encompass all the law and the prophets? And does not St. John tell us: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3) … and Jesus: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him…He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”? (John 14:23-24)

These themes are good for us to recall in our day in which the abyss in which civility seems to have fallen grows ever wider and deeper.

Now, Jesus declares the first and ultimate commandment to be: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Numero uno. Siempre.  Always.

Unbidden, He then adds: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself”… from Leviticus and the Jewish Law: “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” (Leviticus 19:18) … indicating how closely linked are these two great commandments.

And so we see once again how charity—and much of Christ’s teaching—was not new, but a reinforcing off the old Jewish Law … even expanded by Jesus by His divine authority and command, but most of all due to His love of all persons. 

Spouses, parents, children … friends, lands, blessings … and eternal salvation and eternal happiness—all come from God the Father, and it is foolish to love any gift more than the giver. Jesus echoes this priority of loving God above all when He proclaims: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” (Matthew 10:37) … because He as God loves each of us infinitely more than even does our father or mother, son or daughter, wife or husband. After all, as God is the source of all love, the love of someone towards us—or of ourselves toward another—is a participation in the love that God has for all … even for the guy YOU don’t care for that much.

Parents—with God’s aid—give physical life … but God gives spiritual life here, and eternal life to His faithful—those who seek the good to the best of their understanding. He is the parent of our souls. Thus, how can we NOT think of one another—of each person—as brother and sister? And, as God tells us through the prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

But observing His teaching and will is essential, as Jesus Himself warns: “Not everyone who [simply] says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father…” (Matthew 7:21) … God’s will, nothing else but the good and the most beneficial to all. Thus, can we declare “I love my neighbor!” but do the opposite expect to be excused?

When we do the good, we do what is “God-LY” … by definition … and without God, we are without good: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) And even those who do not yet believe in God or Jesus can do good, especially in following that second commandment of loving neighbor. 

While the world flounders frantically seeking happiness in empty things—idols of sex, money, pride, sensual pleasures, and yet finding no happiness—the Christian finds true and very real happiness in God the Father through Jesus Christ. People who let loose the world and seek God before all earthly things are not disappointed. It’s sort of like parachuting; we are fearful at first, but the exhilaration of making that “leap of faith” makes it all worthwhile. And the Lord is the ‘chute the always opens.

“If you see the ass of one who hates you lying under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it, you shall help him to lift it up.” (Exodus 23:5)

We are the ALL the family of God, and so let’s live every day loving God and loving our neighbor … helping lift one another’s burdens, emulating the Good Samaritan who even loved his adversary (ref: Luke 10). As we read from the prophet: “Stand beside the earliest roads, ask the pathways of old. Which is the way to good, and walk it; thus you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

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If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you… You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:10-14)

Editor’s note: Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.

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