We would do well to reflect on the fact that our starting point is that we have been loved by God first, and that experience of being loved unconditionally and without qualifying merit impels us to love in return. The gratuitous nature of God’s love for us is overwhelming, humbling, and motivating. God’s love, if we truly take it to heart, believe it, and live in the grace, the pure gift that it is, will transform us. That transformation will determine the choices we make in our lives.
Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, speaks of the challenge which the Gospel imposes on us and the consequences that flow from embracing it:
“The Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.” (#88)
These words of Pope Francis hit home as they tell us not to insulate ourselves from our brothers and sisters, from their needs and brokenness. We cannot separate ourselves from becoming involved with them as individuals or as part of a community. The tenderness that God has extended to us, we in turn, must offer to others. For some of us, our next step in becoming disciples might mean that we do not avert our eyes from the beggar in the street; but rather, we recognize his dignity as a person by acknowledging his presence. For others, our deepening discipleship may involve our willingness to serve meals at a soup kitchen. For still others, the commitment to discipleship may be
recognized in concerted efforts to increase the numbers of transitional housing units available to homeless families.
Pope Francis tells us: “Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” This means we can’t compartmentalize our life of faith and our daily lives. Our faith and the love that God extends to others through us must penetrate all aspects of our lives. The opportunities to bring the love of Christ to others are all around us. We only need to open our eyes to see them, our hearts to be moved by them, and then, direct our actions to respond to them. When asked why we do the things that we do, we can respond in an evangelizing manner in the words of Sr. Kathy Sherman (who has written a song with this title): “Because we love God.”
Take Your Next Step:
In the coming week, take notice of the poor who live in our midst, and in a time of prayer, ask God: What would you have me do? How do you want me to respond to this person’s need?