Love – The Practice of the Christian Life

I had several requests to post my recent homily on the Good Samaritan, so here it is! Blessings!

While I had been thinking about it all week, I have to admit I procrastinated writing this homily until Friday (last) night. I was out of time, so in a fit of genius, I decided to instead reorganize my living room. I’m moving a piano and couches, setting up a new place for my chair, cleverly hiding wires for my TV, all while my wife is looking at me with those eyes that tell me I have maybe not picked the best time to be spontaneous and redecorate. I am a serious pest to live with. I get a crazy idea, and I uproot everything and everyone around me, all while my poor wife looks on shaking her head and cooking dinner as if nothing is happening.

It’s hard being married. It’s not so much about not getting along, it is even hard when you DO get along. Marriage is about choosing one single person, and then sacrificing everything to do right by them, to help lead them to heaven, to handle the daily and holy task of raising children together, to argue about money, to not hate them for leaving the toilet seat up again and worst of all, to put up with their crazy, eccentric habits and ridiculous ways of doing things, like reorganizing your house at 10 o’clock at night. And you have to do this without resorting to murder, because that is supposedly bad and stuff. It is about real love, not the sappy, romantic love of teens and twenties, though that is a beautiful thing too, but the love that deals with sickness, poverty, death, and in-laws.

Today, we read the story we have all probably heard a million times, the story of the “Good Samaritan”, and very often this homily turns quickly into a talk about the poor. That is a good thing, we do need to take care of the poor and the needy, but I want to talk about something else.

What does it mean to be a christian? What is this life all about? Why are we here? Is it out of duty? Because it makes us feel good? Is it just part of our identity? I think these things are true, but since we are here, it also makes sense to really get to the point of what Jesus wants us to know, and I think this parable gets to the heart of the matter better and faster than any other that Jesus gives us.

The point is to learn to love. Really love. Deeply love. Love without holding back, love till it hurts, and love with all the sacrifice we can muster. Like marriage love, like family love, like deep friendship love, but with every one of our human family.

I harken back to the words of Paul in his famous dialogue on love. Will we need faith in heaven? Nope, we will see God face to face, no faith needed. Will we need hope in heaven? Hope for what? We’re there. Will we need fortitude, temperance, justice or prudence? Not a bit, seeing God we will live perfected in his will. All of that stuff is temporary, just of this world. But not Love. Love is exactly what we will do in heaven. It is all we will do. Our whole existence will be one great and powerful, all fulfilling, all encompassing act of love. We’ll love God, we’ll love his creation, we’ll love each other, we’ll love the angels, we’ll love and love and love and love. And in that eternal moment our love will grow and grow and grow, infinitely. That is exactly what heaven IS, to wrap ourselves in God who, as St. John tells us, IS love.

The true life of a Christian is to do that now. To act like heaven is here, and love. To love until there is nothing left to give. To love until our hands are spread out on our own crosses just like our Lord before us. This is the truth of the Good Samaritan, the true and deep loving of the stranger, because we realize they are not a stranger at all, but our own brothers and sisters we will spend eternity with.

That is the practice of being Christian. It’s not the rosary, or our evening prayers, or our trying to be good boys and girls, except as these teach us to love, (which I should add, they do!). But the meat of this life is to love everyone you meet. At work, at school, at the ball game, when that jerk cuts you off in traffic, when their politics are idiotic, when they have bad hygiene, when they just look funny, or even when they reorganize the house in the middle of the night. Love them anyways.

Do this one thing, do it all the time, and do it right. Love people. Love the gas station clerk. Love your waitress. Listen to the old guy who talks too much even though you are busy. And yes, you can handle giving the poor and needy a few bucks too, but do it with love and not condescension. Become an emissary of God’s love, an apostle of his love to the people of Eureka and everywhere else you go. This is a sure fire way to become a Saint.

Two more quick points, then I’m done. First, when you need to remember what love looks like, look to the Cross of Our Lord, and ask our Blessed Mother’s help any time you need some strength to do it. Ask them for help learning to love. They will help you every time you ask. So ask a lot, like every day, or every minute of every day.

Second, I want to end with two quotes from my own patron and hero of love, St. Therese. She says in a couple sentences what just took me five minutes. That’s why she’s a Doctor of the Church and I’m not. So listen carefully.

“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.” 

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” 

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