From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
Our first reading from Exodus speaks to the Covenant Code to which the Jewish people are called to live. It deals specifically with the treatment that was to be given to the legally helpless and defenseless. They are to be treated fairly. Your position of power over them gives you no right to take advantage of them. This would resonate with the Jewish people who had earlier been led out of Egypt and found themselves many times to be the oppressed and not the oppressor. It is an issue that we still deal with today in the Middle East. We should all take note that we are called to treat others fairly and avoid the temptation to abuse power.
Our commitment to God is not just a personal relationship but also links us to everyone else who shares in the faith. We have to be willing to let others see and witness our faith lived out. We cannot just love God part time, we have to love Him with everything we have. We cannot just be good to our neighbor sometimes, we have to treat our neighbors in the same way that we care for ourselves.
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Who is your neighbor that Jesus is thinking about? Is it the person you know and love, your arch nemesis who you despise or someone else? Of course it is all of them, but our first reading gives us greater clarity about who Jesus is concerned with – “An alien, a widow or orphan, your poor neighbors.” In short, it is those who you do not know, you do not think about, and who have no power. They are legally helpless and defenseless. We not only have a responsibility to love them; we are to care for them, treat them with respect, dignity and mercy – just as God treats us. God gives the poor, the vulnerable, and the defenseless the right to cry out in their need – and He tasks those who are holy and blessed to respond to their cry. This may actually be our biggest challenge – to care for those who provide no earthly benefit to us for having cared for them. To love them first and foremost with and from our heart, then our soul, and lastly our mind. They can do nothing for us – except help us to grow in holiness.
The heart of Christian morality is the desire to love God fully, completely, and to love others as unique reflections of God’s love. Jesus is not calling us to be minimalists. He is calling us to love God and our neighbor completely, without counting the cost. Our faith should be obvious by the choices we make day in and day out. It is not about trying to make ourselves look good – or promoting ourselves, but it is all about promoting God. We should trumpet the goodness of God to all we encounter that they may share in His love.
As Vincentians, we deal every day with those who are vulnerable, poor, and defenseless. Do we embrace their pain and make it our own? Do we help them so that we can feel better about ourselves – or so they can find a better place in life? Do we seek only to give them charity, or do we seek justice for them as well? Do we approach them with dignity and respect, offering them trust as we ask them to trust us? Do we trust in God’s love for them and us, to bind us as brothers and sisters seeking to lift each other up?
Father, never let me take my eyes off of you! You are my all – everything that I am and everything that I will ever be! Strip me of my pride that I may be ever focused on your will only. Through you and for you let me minister to those you bring before me. Help me to see and embrace the vulnerable, the poor, and the defenseless who are crying out for help. Help me to always remember to serve in humility with gentleness and kindness. Let me always be a true reflection of your mercy and compassion made evident and available to others. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen