31st Sunday in Ordinary Time | November 3, 2019
Last year, I was in court for one of my former students.
I sat in the benches with his mother, awaiting the moment when he would be called before the judge.
But before he was called to the stand, another young man was asked to step forward.
He was young, about 18 years old. And plainly terrified.
The judge asked why he had failed to accomplish a list of tasks, ranging from paying fees to staying clean to finding a job.
He began to speak, explaining how when he got out of jail, no one wanted him back. He had been living on the street and was therefore struggling to find work.
He stood alone, pleading to a judge who never even looked at him. There was no one in that courtroom for him that day.
And before he finished even explaining his situation, the judge barked, “Three years.” And he was whisked away before anyone knew what happened.
That situation still troubles me to this day
For I look into the faces of my students, especially the ones whose lives are difficult, and I see that young man. And I keep asking myself the same questions.
Where was his family?
Where were his friends?
Where was the Church?
Why was he left alone?
I doubt I will ever see that young man again. But he motivates me every day. Because I never want to see another person in his place. Alone. Forgotten. Unloved.
And then I read the readings for this weekend and it was like being hit by a ton of bricks. For these Scriptures could not be more straightforward.
The two great commandments: Love your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
And yet, here we are, this nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles.
Founded on these two commandments,
Drowning in anger, and fear, and hatred.
Bullets fly in synagogues and pipe bombs are mailed to enemies of the people.
Swastikas are spray-painted on windows and Latino children are told to go back to where they came from.
Doors are frantically locked when two black males walk by our car at night and family members hide who they voted for out of fear of repercussions around the dinner table.
And even in our own Church, an ever-growing number of Catholics somehow feel that in defense of Tradition they can attack fellow Catholics: sending them to Hell, threatening them and their families because they dare to question how the Church cares for its gay brothers and sisters.
How did we get here? How have we lost sight of the two commandments that should guide us above all?
For these two commandments matter more than all of our burnt sacrifices and offerings.
All of our devotions and rosaries.
All of our novenas and donations.
All of our hours spent before the blessed sacrament.
For if we cannot love our neighbor, then all of these ring false. If we cannot see God in our neighbor, then we are not truly seeing God in the monstrance.
Today my friends, we must choose differently. We must choose the path of love.
We must leave the well-trod paths of our comfort zone and bear this love into the darkest corners of our nation and world.
We must stare our fears in the face and choose love instead.
We must look at the one who makes us angry and choose love instead.
We must look at the one whose actions we despise, whose choices are appalling to us and we must choose love instead.
We must walk across the aisle and say, “I love you.”
I love you.
I love you.
And then, we need to back it up with our actions. So that no one will ever again be alone. No one ever again will be forgotten. No one ever again will be unloved.
May God be Praised.