Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Brothers and Sisters, if we are going to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ in Name and in act, then we have to love.
Think of a time, perhaps in your life, when a situation demanded a change. Maybe in behavior, or circumstance, maybe hardheadedness or hardheartedness, misunderstanding, downright error? What is the one thing that can convince us to think again, to make adjustments in our lives, even to make a 180 degree change in course in our thoughts and actions? It is only the loving concern of another person.
Love is the only thing that can break through darkness. Love is the thing that Jesus says we must do. St. Paul says that love is the one thing that will remain, even after all else ceases to be. “Love never fails.”
If you’ve been following the coverage of the Synod in Rome with the rest of the world, you have heard some confusing things, probably, because the world listens with ears that hear only what they are listening for. Not the whole message, or all the words. All of us have a selective ability to receive truth, and consider ourselves clever while we are at it. But there is a truth that lies at the foundation of all of these deliberations, and it is something that Pope Francis has said from the first day of his papacy, that the love of Christ must lie at the foundation of all that we say, all that we do, all that we are. Every person is deserving of love, without exception.
Christ was pretty clear that he came to change a sinful world, to save the lost and bring back those who don’t know him. On some level, that is all of us, and we don’t yet realize that nothing is going to satisfy us, that is, anything less than a real loving relationship with him. He, in pretty dramatic fashion, made that love known to us, to the point of his terrible death, taking our place on the Cross.
Unfortunately, it has been our cultural experience too often to “circle the wagons.” This expression is a reference to the pioneers who “settled” the “wilderness” which they “discovered” in a recurring world-wide drama that has always replayed itself throughout history as one culture replaces another. We have so many romantic images of “us against them.” In reality, our pioneers were expansionists who went West to take and occupy the lands of the people who were already living in this country, either by killing them, or relocating them to refugee camps we still call “reservations” today. We were indoctrinated as children (remember all the Western TV shows) that we were the good guys, and all these “savages” were the bad guys. Our culture is polarized between “us and them” so easily, because it is easier to stay in that comfortable place and judge where I am right and you are wrong. We come to our camp at night, we circle our wagons around the light of our fire to keep everyone else away, the savages, the coyotes, the sinners, the people who don’t think like we do. We don’t trust our supplies, we don’t like to share. We set up a barrier.
Reconciliation and conversion will never take place unless somebody reaches across the barrier in love. If we truly believe in Truth, then we should not have the lack of confidence, the insecurity, to step out and let Truth do its work. We just carry the word. Don’t shoot the messenger, right? Well, sometimes it happens, as we well know. But the message is now out there. We don’t change Truth, but sometimes it requires a heroic dose of love to communicate it. Jesus knew that. He spent his time and, literally, his life because he knew that only this was required: “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8).
To love a person who does not agree with you doesn’t mean you are giving up what you believe. In reality, it means that you are living what you believe. Jesus went out and ate dinner at the houses of great sinners, and spent his time seeking the lost, because he knew the potential there for glory and grace. He knew that their dignity made in his image required that their voice be heard, just as his deserved to be heard. So let us allow Truth to do its work.
St. John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, let me put love, and there I will find love.” Reconciliation has to begin with me, not because I love me, but because I love you.
God bless you.