Friday, July 8, 2022

“Who Is My Neighbor?” The One Who Treats A Person With Mercy. Go And Do Likewise!

In mid1975 I was hired by a national wholesale nursery company as a regional salesman to represent them in the new territory of southern California and Nevada and all of Arizona.  In addition, I would continue to handle their firm’s public relations.  I closed my public relations/advertising agency and my wife and I sold our home and moved our family of four children under the age of seven from the Chicago area to Southern California.

By early 1976, the company and I disagreed on the original direction for which I was hired, and we parted ways.  I would be unemployed for the next seven months, my unemployment benefits would run out and we would have to go on welfare.  It was one of the darkest periods of our married life and I felt like the half-dead man of the road in St. Luke’s Gospel.

One day we took the children to a local regional park within walking distance from the house we rented and talked about possibly returning to the Chicago area where our family and friends were.  This was a serious discussion because we had run out of food at home and food stamps with which to purchase more food.  We literally did not have any food to eat that night or for another week.

When we returned home, we saw a bundle of paper bags on the front porch.  As we got closer and looked inside we discovered each was filled with food of every description.  We were shocked and overwhelmed.  As we took the bags inside to put away and start dinner, we looked for a note but found none.

A few days later, two couples from the local Marriage Encounter groups we belonged to visited us.  One of those couples had brought us the food.  The other couple gave us an envelope of several hundred dollars they shared from their savings.  Each told us they wanted no repayment, but that we should do the same for someone else in need in the future.  With tears in our eyes, we agreed.  A week later I was hired for a job.

That time of generosity and compassion by people we barely knew at the time gave me a different outlook of how I should treat people in need.  It taught me to reach out to others.  But it didn’t go much beyond those I knew or for whom I felt an affinity.

It wouldn’t be until 2000 when my wife and I entered the Diaconate formation program we decided to volunteer at Catholic Worker in Santa Ana in helping to feed the poor and homeless, did I begin to understand who my neighbor is as illustrated today in St. Luke Gospel.  All of God’s creations, no matter their race, creed, sexual orientation, religious belief or nationality, are my neighbor.

All of us who believe in God and want to love our neighbor as Jesus loves us, must come to this realization.  We must reach out in love and mercy to all others.  And all of us have the gift to do so.  The reading from Deuteronomy tells us that when it says: “…it (meaning God’s love and mercy) is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out".

This is the purpose for which God created us for prior to our birth and what we promised to commit to by our Baptism: To love God above all and our neighbor as Jesus loves us.  We must have the same depth of compassion and mercy as Jesus did for us when He suffered and died on a cross for forgiveness of our sins and salvation for our souls.

Sometime this summer, let us plan to reach out beyond the friendly confines of our family, friends and church.  Let us volunteer a day or a few hours at organizations that feed the homeless, visit and comfort someone who is sick at home or in a hospital or in a hospice dying.  They need God’s mercy and compassion.  And we, as His representative, need to share the gift of what a true neighbor is.

As Jesus said: “Go and do likewise.”

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 30: 10-14
Reading 2: Colossians 1: 15-20
Gospel: Luke 10: 25-37

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