What would it take for everyone to ask before doing or saying anything: Is what I’m about to do or say loving? It seems clear that this is what Jesus asks us to do no matter who the other person is. There are no conditions that absent us from this commandment. Jesus applies it to friend and enemy and men and women, and He applies it to any other kind of equality or difference we see between each other.
I would like to take some time this week to help us to answer that question. Why is it so difficult for us to do what Jesus asks us? According to the teachings of Jesus, we know that evil comes from within. Our inability to love whoever is in front of us probably has something to do with our own prejudice or attitudes toward certain people or groups. We might have made a decision that some person or group is unworthy of our love because of what they say or do. Jesus does not place that condition or any other condition on our command to love one another as God loves us.
We’ve been going through story after story of Jesus’s re-encounter with those who betrayed or abandoned Him. Each encounter is marked by His greeting of peace and His willingness to do whatever it takes for the person He is encountering to know that He loves them. Whether it’s giving somebody like Thomas what he needs to be able to believe, or sharing a breakfast of fish and bread on the seashore, Jesus gives each of them what they need to reconnect and believe again in His love for them.
Even though it sounds like a great thing to do, why is it so essential that we love everyone and not just some people? The divisions and hatred that we are experiencing both outside and inside the Church have at their roots our inability to love each other no matter what. We have given away the truth that we belong to each other. We have sacrificed the truth of being members of God’s people for the sake of our own judgments and hatred of others.
We can’t really claim ignorance in this case, for we all have the personal experience of not being forgiven for what we’ve done in the past or being hated for who we are. We know personally how divisive and destructive that is both to the person and to the community. To truly be God’s people, we need to reject the belief that eliminating a person or group of people would make us better.
We are quickly moving toward the feast of Pentecost, and many in our communities have just received the sacrament of confirmation. This is supposed to be a season in which the Holy Spirit is unleashed in new and deeper ways in the community of God, but it seems the power of the spirit is being held back by our brokenness within the community. During these weeks leading up to the feast of Pentecost, can we individually begin to practice attitudes and actions of healing? Can we be brave enough to admit what hatred and prejudice we have within our own hearts and minds? Can we begin to change habits of rejection toward others? Can we actually begin to come to know each other, especially those so different than ourselves? Let us pray for the courage and the humility to let the Spirit of God work within us and in our communities.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.