Love one another as I have loved you
As we continue to face this Covid 19 crisis as a human family, I have often returned to a beautiful teaching of Christ in chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke. A lawyer is sent to question Jesus. He asks the question which is at the heart of the Christian message. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him to go to the Scriptures and answer for himself. The lawyer answers, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus tells him that he has answered correctly. But the lawyer needs to justify himself before his masters and so he asks, “and who is my neighbour?”
Who is my neighbour? In response Jesus tells one of the greatest parables of all time, that of the good Samaritan. We need to keep in mind that in Jesus’ time relations between the Jewish people and the Samaritans were very hostile. So Jesus chooses an unwelcome hero. A man is mugged and left badly injured on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, a road renowned for its danger. A number of people see the man in his distress but walk on by, thinking only of themselves. But when a Samaritan sees the man in his suffering, he is moved with compassion and reaches out to tenderly help him. As Martin Luther King once said, the others thought if I help this man, what will become of me? The Samaritan thought, if I don’t help this man what will become of him? This is the heart of Christian love shown above all in our God who took the form of a servant and laid down his life for us on the cross.
Scripture celebrates the beauty and sanctity of every human life. Each of us, without exception, is made in the image and likeness of God. Each of us is loved into existence by God. Jesus laid down his life for each of us without exception or distinction. He never thought of himself first. And as Jesus loves us, we are called to follow his example, to walk his path. Who is my neighbour? Everyone is my neighbour.
As we fight this Covid 19 virus in our communities and across the world, it can be sad to hear about student parties, a small number of pubs remaining open, beaches being crowded, such as at Dollymount strand this last weekend, or carparks full and needing to be closed at Glendalough. This behaviour only put others in danger. Christ is calling us, his disciples, to walk his path during this crisis in sacrificing ourselves, our leisure and pleasure, and put the good of our neighbours first. As we practice the HSE guidelines to socially distance, we are following to commandment of Christ to love our neighbour. As we look out for those who are elderly and vulnerable in our towns, neighbourhoods and streets, checking if they need food or help, we are practicing the love of Christ. As we buy only what we need and not more than is essential in our supermarkets, we are looking out for the next person behind us. During this crisis, as never before, God is calling us to be moved with compassion for others and to be good Samaritans. And through it all, so that God may sustain us with His strength and grace, let is continue to pray for each other, especially our health care heroes, those who are sick and vulnerable. The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us the pathway out of this crisis. It is summed up in his teaching: “Love one another, as I have loved you”. John 13:34
Prayer of St Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.