Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What Is Unusual About That?

By Melanie Rigney

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. (Psalm 146:2)

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-47)

Lord, You ask a lot. Why do I have to be kind to those who treat me with contempt, welcoming to those who do not welcome me? There’s only one way I can do these things: through You.

Without giving too much away, because that would defeat the purpose, of course, suffice it to say this passage of Matthew’s Gospel has been my go-to reading for the past couple of weeks. Summer brings a lot of strangers into our lives. It brings vacationers to our cities and parishes… and brings us to cities and parishes other than our own. It brings the opportunity to get reacquainted with family and friends we haven’t seen in months or even decades.

And often, “those people” are different from us. We’ve figured out ways to look past the petty annoyances we find in the people we see regularly… because we know them as kind, caring people. We may not know the name of our usual barista or checkout clerk at the grocery store, but we have seen his or her patience in helping another customer who has disabilities.  And so what if our spouse or best friend always takes the bigger “half” of dessert? We know that person to be kind and giving in so many other situations.

Then, there are the strangers… or once-knew-them-but-for-all-intents-and-purposes-now-strangers. They pontificate. They don’t care about our opinion or desires. The way we see it, they focus on themselves. And, in that greatest offense in the Washington, DC area, they stand on the left on Metro escalators. What is to love, I ask you, about these strangers?

Well, plenty, according to Jesus. Because it’s not about loving those who love us, as he says in today’s Gospel. It’s about loving, period. Everyone. Whether they love us or not. It couldn’t be any simpler… or more challenging. Love, without any expectation of it being returned. Love, even when it’s met with disdain and cruelty. Love, because He loved us first.

Pray today for the person who is most working your nerve. If it’s safe, reach out and ask that person a question about his or her hobby or passion, some subject that is likely to show the person’s lovable self rather than the part you find challenging.

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