In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes it very simple.
It is all about love. Love of God expressed in love of our neighbor, of the people we live with and meet in our home. Love in the grocery store, at work, or on the street.
And what is love? I understand it to be the decision, the choice, the willingness to give value in my decision-making to what is important to the other person. So “to love your neighbor as yourself” tells me to make the needs of my neighbor just as important as my own needs. It doesn’t say anything about that person’s race or nation of origin or skin color or religious beliefs.
In fact, at the end of the parallel passage in Luke’s Gospel (Lk 10: 25-28), Jesus goes on to tell a parable (cf. 10:29-37) about a Jewish man being helped by a Samaritan, a person from a different culture, someone the strict Jews shunned. That encounter changed both people, and gives us an example of a key ingredient in the healing of the divisions across racial lines in our land.
It will take time and effort—persistent effort—to reach across this divide to form relationships that open the way to healing. Who will be wise enough to walk this path?
- What in our culture makes it so hard to reach out to a person of another race?
- What is at the root of my personal reluctance or hesitation? Is that how I want to live?
- Where have I experienced a relationship that has been a source of healing?
Mark McKenzie, S.J. is the Pastoral Assistant to the Provincial of the U. S. Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus. His previous ministries include 13 years as a high school mathematics teacher and 31 years as a pastor.