Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where is the Love?

October 13, 2010
Wednesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, Nor go the way of sinners nor sit in company with scoffers. Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither, whatever they do prospers. But not the wicked! They are like chaff driven by the wind. Therefore the wicked will not survive judgment, nor will sinners in the assembly of the just. The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin. (Psalm 1)

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like… In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:19-21a, 22-23)

The Lord said: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Then one of the scholars said to him in reply, ”Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” (Luke 11:42-46)

Love consists in sharing
what one has
and what one is
with those one loves.

Love ought to show itself in deeds
more than in words.
(St. Ignatius of Loyola, Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, p. 141)

Each of our Scripture readings today is a study in contrasts. The psalmist says one can either be deeply rooted in God as a fruit-bearing plant near a life-giving stream or without direction or purpose as chaff blowing in the wind, coming to no good end.

Paul phrases it a little bit differently in his letter to the Christians in Galatia. A person can either be self- or flesh-centered and produce works of immorality, impurity, etc., or Spirit-centered and bear the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.

In the Gospel reading the contrast is between two different approaches to faith and those around us. On the one hand, we have the Pharisees and the scholars. As Jesus points out, they are more interested in seeing the last little letter of the law carried out than in the love and justice of God, which should be regarded as the underpinnings of the law. They are carried away with their self-importance. They want to be fawned over and treated as VIPs. They are totally self-absorbed. On the other hand, we have Jesus, the Son of God, the “ultimate VIP,” so to speak, who loves, forgives and heals sinners, tax collectors, Samaritans and a whole host of other folk the Pharisees wouldn’t look at twice.

As I was reflecting on this Gospel passage, I wondered what it would be like to have Jesus come to dinner at my house. First of all, I’m sure I would go into mega-Martha mode! Not until all the preparations were complete would I even begin to consider what we would talk about. I’d like to think I would fare a little better than the Pharisee host in today’s reading. But the truth is I think there’s a little bit of the Pharisee in me. I hope Jesus would take into consideration some of the things I do – go to Mass, tutor the little boy next door in reading, sing in a choir, be a part of my Saturday morning Cursillo group, write for the Daily Tripod on Wednesdays, etc, etc.

But the thing about Jesus is that he sees right through to our core. And I can imagine him saying, yes, these things are a start, but where is the love when you’re leaving Sunday Mass in such a rush to go to lunch with friends that you’re impatient with others still walking to their cars or cars pulling out of parking spaces in front of you? You just received my Body and Blood, but you can’t patiently give a fellow Christian five minutes to get out on the road?

Where is the love when you’re rushing around doing all these things and don’t have time to listen to your friend on the phone whose little boy is being bullied at school, or your elderly parents who called up because they’re lonely? There are many more examples he could bring to my attention in addition to these.

On second thought, maybe I’m not so eager to have Jesus over for dinner.

Take a few minutes to imagine yourself inviting Jesus to your house for dinner. Picture all the preparations, the desire to put your best foot forward for this most honored of all guests. See him sitting across the table from you, knowing everything there is to know about you. Imagine Jesus asking you, where is the love?