It has been sad to watch protests against public health lockdowns in Victoria and in other parts of the world, where people are loudly protesting their ‘rights’. Today’s Gospel lies at the heart of the Christian way of being in the world, and here Jesus reminds us that my ‘rights’ must always be balanced against the need to love God and to love my neighbour as myself. In this COVID world, my right to freedom has to be balanced against the danger of infecting the weak and the vulnerable with this vicious virus.
In this Gospel, Jesus sets out the fundamental premise of the law: love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. One of the most favoured readings for weddings is the passage in St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that tells us love is patient, love is kind, love, love is not envious or arrogant or rude….it bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Yet most wedding couples don’t realise what they are choosing here, because the kind of love Paul is writing of, and the kind of love Jesus is speaking of in today’s Gospel, is not the love we hear about in pop songs. Pop song love is conditional, it has an agenda, it is more about me, and what I want and need than about the other person. Our culture doesn’t love love, it loves the idea of love. It wants the emotion without paying anything for it. Because love, the neighbour-focussed love Jesus is speaking of is sacrificial; it’s ferocious, it’s committed and enduring. It doesn’t operate with an agenda that’s about me and my needs and above all it’s not about emotion. This kind of love isn’t about my ‘rights’ but about the way my actions affect the lives of others.
This ferocious outward looking, uncompromising love that Jesus speaks of, and that he affirms in the Sermon on the Mount, is to be shared not just with people we like, not just with family or friends, but even with the one we have difficulty liking, or the one we don’t really approve of. The parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us just how broad this category of ‘neighbour’ is. Indeed, we find today, that unless we’re prepared to do this, we can’t really claim that we love God.
In peace, Mother Lynda