I attended a weekly community meeting the other morning where we discussed a current political issue and as is often the case, the conversation got quite lively, to put it mildly. At one point I shared my experience as a child growing up, recalling the women of my local parish collecting old sheets, cutting them up and sending them to the missions where they could be used as bandages. Another attendee responded that Catholics just want to convert everyone. I’m afraid my response to him was not a very loving one. I snapped: “Well, I’m sure you know a lot more about that than I do.” (he’s not a Catholic) I apologized the following week admitting my response to be sarcastic and not called for and he accepted my apology.
I certainly realize why he might think that way, especially realizing I was referring to the 1950’s. We truly were a zealous church wanting to fulfill Jesus’ command to go out to all nations, baptizing them… Certainly some people could rightfully interpret that as promotion, rather than what I believe was the true intent of those Catholic women who gathered, that is, a loving and caring for people they didn’t even know. When asked by a Pharisee in today’s Gospel selection, what is the greatest commandment, Jesus responded:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.” (MK 12:29-33)
I love the words attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” I pray today that my words and actions will demonstrate the peace and love I have learned to be at the heart of the Christian message.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.