I remember in my confirmation classes in high school, we talked about hatred and love. My confirmation teacher shared with us her own prayer when she had difficulty loving someone as Christ would: “Lord, share with me a fraction of your love for this individual.” She challenged me to explore the idea that, just like Christ loves me despite my downfalls, He does so with those that I do not seem to like so much or those that I struggle to understand. And He calls us to do the same. This memory has shaped every relationship and interaction that I have had since.
This Gospel passage this week holds more weight to me this time reading it, especially with it being the end of the weekend of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, being in the midst of a global pandemic, and with the election right around the corner. Christ’s answer to the question has influenced my way of being—as well as the Ignatian Family—to find the intersections of faith and justice and to pursue them steadfastly. It is the reason I am proud to be part of the Ignatian network. We are meant to love fearlessly, especially those that are overlooked and underserved. Christ’s answer to the question constantly pushes me to view each person as important, and for my presence in their life (even for a second) to be an opportunity for me to love my neighbor as I would want to be loved.
Christ’s call to action in this Gospel is to love each person that you come into contact with as much as you would want to be loved. Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti, holds this week’s Gospel message at the very center of it. He challenges us to reflect on our relationships and how we view others, especially marginalized and excluded persons, because recognizing Christ’s face in each person is how we can shape a more compassionate world for the common good. Challenge yourself to understand and take on the burdens of the marginalized and excluded, loving them unconditionally as Christ loves you.
Take this call to action into this week, this month, this lifetime, and especially into the voting booth.
Shelby Smyth is a graduate of Spring Hill College (2019), where she studied psychology with a minor in theology. In her undergraduate studies, she became involved in social justice and advocacy through the push from faculty and staff at Spring Hill, which led her to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Shortly after graduation, she served a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Syracuse, New York with the Northside CYO, making relationships with refugee families and providing academic support and afterschool programming. Currently, she is working as a mental health technician, as well as serving as an ISN intern, with the hopes of pursuing an education to become a school counselor in the future.