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Simple loving

Loving is an action which we may hardly think about, if it does not come with a “return on investment”

Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

The difficulty of following the Christ stems much less from a “not being able to” than from a “not wanting to.”

Our Master clearly exhorts us to “love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength and with all our minds; and to love our neighbors as ourselves.” Our ancestors in faith reminds us that these commandments from heaven “are neither too high nor too remote for you,” simply because loving is already an essential part of our being human: “On the contrary, my word is very near you; it is already in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can put it into practice.”

We have all been created to love by Love; we are not just practicing it. Loving is an action which we may hardly think about, if it does not come with a “return on investment.”

What then hinders our loving? In most of our contexts, “our neighbors” are conveniently understood to be those others we can relate to as being “similar to” or “easily controlled by” us. In this famous parable of the good Samaritan, Christ challenges us to rethink “our neighbors” as those others we must relate to in spite of their differences and apparent strangeness. The unparalleled charity of the Samaritan towards the Jew is also an amazing tale of hegemonic roles reversed: The one who has been marginalized, comes to the aid of the other who conveniently marginalizes.

So, how can we love? Our epistemological framework must begin with fresh God-experiences among people we have unjustly branded as “peculiar” or “mysterious.” We must open ourselves to an encounter with the “unfamiliar other.” Our new way of “being Church” impels us to start listening to their stories, discerning from them their own insights into life, learning from reflections which gave them meaning and hope. Oftentimes, from these encounters of multiculturality and multi-religiosity, we actually learn mutual responsibility and simple sharing from them, through their struggles, disappointments and tears of sorrow and joy.

In attempting to find the best of humanity in the “unfamiliar other,” we begin to witness the worst in us, thereby initiating a change process which we undertake in ourselves by “becoming Christ.” This process of inner conversion first makes us receptive to receive God’s invitation to unite ourselves with him in love; and then enables us to respond to this invitation through a commitment to care and protect the rest of creation, which he loves as well.

- Newsletter -

The outer expression of loving may be modeled according to Br. Anthony Rogers, on the actions of the good Samaritan:

1) Look around and see those whom others have neglected or forgotten;
2) Descend from our lofty status and position, in spite of the dangers;
3) Walk towards, listen to and learn from the victims;
4) Share what we have, for we possess nothing;
5) Give care by healing their wounds;
6) Journey with them all the way “to the inn” with tenderness and patience;
7) Work with “the innkeeper” and promise further support as needed.

Only loving can beget a compassionate servant. Only compassion can beget a missionary spirit.

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

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