They heard him. They heard him years ago and continue to hear him today. These people have been listening to Jesus since Day One, ever since he said:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The concept of neighbor may seem strange or foreign to those who grew up in this societal bubble of individualism currently consuming the United States. Who is my neighbor? What is a neighbor?
Jesus intentionally uses this somewhat-vague word to make a point: we are all neighbors. Our neighbors are all around us – living right next door; sleeping on the streets without food and shelter; working two jobs to support family; laughing on the outside but struggling on the inside; working in the warehouse down the street; fleeing violence overseas for a safer home here.
I’ve met some of these people, and I aspire to reflect their radical love in my life. I work with many of them now – they are the people of the Dolores Mission community. They house the homeless and feed the hungry despite threats of losing their own homes to gentrification; they welcome the stranger, despite anxieties over immigration raids. They are determined to empower students and families through education, from a history class to homeowner rights workshops.
They love their neighbors.
And this love brings the Gospel to life. Our poor neighbor, our refugee neighbor, our homeless neighbor – they are our teachers. Take time to hear their stories, to accompany each other. It is from ‘them’ that all will learn to become ‘us’ – to become better neighbors.
- Who are your neighbors? Can you name them? Learn the face and name of one of your neighbors this week.
- Are there moments in your everyday life where you can be a better neighbor to others (e.g. opt into conversation instead of headphones)?
Erin Canning is served from 2016-2017 as a Jesuit Volunteer in Los Angeles as a Youth Minister at Dolores Mission Parish. She’s a graduate of St. Louis University in Biomedical Engineering and hails from the Chicago area.