Who is my neighbor?

You know well about the weekly help that the Outreach Center provides our Ward 8 neighbors with food and clothing. But, Assumption is now considerably helping many in need of financial assistance in coordination with Catholic Charities. The CC representative has been coming here for months, meeting individually with people who have called our office for emergency help with paying their bills. The financial outreach has grown so much (surprise, surprise) that the rep is maxing out regularly on the CC funds he has to offer. Weeks ago, I offered to cover as much of the difference as we can in each case, trusting that God would provide through friends or other donors who would very much like to help. He is doing exactly that, and we can figure on minimal amounts only coming from the parish budget. I don’t want to say “no” completely to anyone who comes to our door when it’s possible to say “yes” in some way. Wouldn’t we all want this to be the policy of a church office if we went there in an emergency?

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”

It has now gotten to the point that we can only offer help with utilities. We are no longer able to assist with rental payments. The CC rep is meeting with five or six people on average every month which has been an increase of about 100% from months ago. I jokingly wrote “surprise, surprise” above that the requests have increased because it’s obvious that the word has spread on the street that Assumption (with Catholic Charities) can help them. Please be assured that we employ a thorough process to determine if each request is legitimate. It is heartbreaking when people call us just after their heat, water or electricity has been suddenly turned off. That is exactly when we want to help our neighbors, just like we would want people to help us if we were in that dreadful situation. In today’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus names this the second commandment, and says it is like the first:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”

You have been living the second commandment for so long here, and it has flowed from living the first. Our love of God flows from His love for us. It’s “not that we have loved God, but that God first loved us” (1 John 4). So, God’s love is first, love of God is second, and love of neighbor is third. Clearly you know and show that God loves you. God’s love is demonstrable and visible in your spirit and joy. You know deep down what Isaiah 43:1-5 says – that He loves you! And, then you show your love for Him in your passionate commitment to worship and serve Him. You really do get all your heart, soul, and mind into it! So, you love God and you love your neighbor, but…

Do you love yourself? I truly hope that you love the person that God created in you. He created you like no one else ever! You are unique and in your uniqueness, you reflect the Divine Image like no one ever has. Trusting that you love yourself, I ask you to consider that there are qualities or habits in yourself that you don’t love. With the help of Confession (ahem), these are mainly things of the past, I hope. Nonetheless, you have been able to look past these things to love yourself overall. So, can you do the same with your neighbor?

“Who is my neighbor?” you might ask. Think of the person in your life that is the hardest person to love right now. That is your neighbor. It’s said about teams that they are as good as their weakest link. Well, we can say that our love is as good as it is toward our worst enemy. Can you overlook their worst qualities and habits to love them overall? Can you love them as you love yourself?

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg