by Lindsay Schlegel
“On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
Today’s readings work together to create a reality check on one of my main #lifegoals, that is, loving as Jesus loved.
In the first reading, the Lord gives specific dos and (mostly) don’ts about how we ought to conduct ourselves in the context of society. And in the second reading, St. Paul recognizes the concrete impact the Gospel has had on the lives of the Thessalonians to whom he writes. The Gospel reading reminds us of the two greatest commandments, given in the language of the Lord.
We read today about what our lives as followers of Christ should look like on both theoretical and practical levels. God comes first, then our neighbors, then ourselves. We must treat everyone we interact with (including ourselves) with dignity and respect. And we can’t let the weak suffer for our gain.
We’ve Heard This Before, But How Are We Doing?
These concepts have been expressed in many ways over the two millennia since Christ walked the earth:
“Your life may be the only Gospel some people ever read.”
“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
“They will know we are Christians by our love.” (Is the tune of this song now stuck in your head? It is in mine!)
But these phrases can feel trite or cliché since we’ve heard them so many times. Perhaps that’s why the phrasing St. Paul uses, the image he creates, is so compelling to me: Can it be said of me that “in every place [my] faith in God has gone forth”?
What would it look like for my faith to make an impression on society? Or even on just one person? In some, it would resemble someone realizing God heals brokenness and forgives your sins. In others, it might look like anger and resistance—a refusal of the merciful love of Christ. And in still others, it could fall somewhere in between, so that an individual is aware that there’s another way to live this life, one that the culture doesn’t endorse and sometimes fails even to acknowledge.
Am I Willing to Love When that Love May Never be Returned?
Jesus’ love went forth in a powerful way—it opened the gates of Heaven, forgave sin, and redeemed all of humankind. But was He met with only happy, smiling, grateful disciples? Of course not.
The question I need to ask myself today is maybe not whether I love as Jesus loved. I know that although I try, I stumble and fall on this journey. I’m not going to get it right every time.
But does that mean I’m going to get discouraged? When my charity is met with ingratitude, when my attempts to divert a conversation away from gossip fail, when I lose my cool with my children, am I going to stop trying to love the way Jesus loved?
With His grace, with the strength I garner from frequent recourse to the sacraments and from daily prayer, no, I’m not giving up. I choose to keep striving for holiness, no matter what the result may seem to be, through my human lens. I prefer to see my life the way God sees it, not the diminishing way our culture dictates.
Today, I pray the Holy Spirit will guide me in thought, word, and deed so that my faith will go forth from me in big and small ways. I pray to be a witness to Christ, not for my gain but for His glory. I pray when my time in this life is over. I may be welcomed by the Lord into His house to continue praising Him for all eternity.
Lord, please help me to love others as you do. Lead me to those who need to know you so that I can share the Good News with them.
Call to Action
Spend some time going through your clothes and blankets and donate a few things to those in need.
Post reprinted from October 2020. Prayer and Call to Action added by the editor.