The requirements of faith don’t get any more real than what we hear proclaimed in today’s scripture that picks up on yesterday’s Sunday readings. It really upset the synagogue leaders that Jesus would dare to cure the crippled woman on the Sabbath.
There can be no dissecting our love of God from our love of neighbor. There is no nuancing who is and who is not my neighbor, just like there can be no conditional love of God. In other words, you can keep holy the sabbath and care for those in need. In fact, caring for those in need is keeping holy the sabbath. In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus refused to be tricked when asked what is the one “greatest commandment.” Jesus replied that the two commandments of loving God and loving your neighbor are inseparable.
Fratelli Tutti is the recent encyclical shared with the world by Pope Francis. It’s a reflection on Saint Francis of Assisi and his idea of brotherly and sisterly friendship expressed in “an openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.” Pope Francis writes in this letter, “Wherever [Saint Francis] went, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters.”
Loving God means loving our neighbor, especially those left alone and abandoned – often referred to as the widow and orphan, the cripple and leper, the sinner and foreigner. For us it means loving those who have a different skin color than we have, speak a different language, practice a different religion, and wear different clothes. It certainly means loving the most vulnerable and forgotten in our midst…the unborn, the migrant, the prisoner, the homeless, and those preyed upon for being a woman or gay or Black.
The Gospel does not say “Love the Lord your God when it is easy.” It does not say “Love your neighbor who is like you.” I wrote this reflection on the Feast of Saint Paul of the Cross who enjoins us to love and care for those crucified in today’s world. Gaze upon the Cross of Jesus and see God’s love, then gaze upon our suffering world to see and love our neighbor…all of them.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and was the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.