Through baptism, we have been incorporated into the body of Christ. Joining in with Christ, we are called to share in his work. He entered the world to help us all. He serves us out of love; now, we are expected to live in the world, serving others like he did, and do so out of love. This is how we are to follow Paul’s words and live a life worthy of the promises which we received:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:1-6 RSV).
If we have been joined together in Christ, if we are one body in Christ, why do we fight against each other? Why do we war against one another? It is because we let sin divide us. We are expected to be meek and patient, but instead we are arrogant, boastful and proud, expecting others to glorify us instead of serving them with humble love. When we do some good for someone else, we think we deserve special praises, showing that our reason for doing what we did was for our own good, not the good of others. If we truly cared and did right solely because we desired to do what is right, we would not be looking for such a reward. Once we begin to look for such rewards, we begin to divide ourselves from the common good and the bond of love which should hold us together. We must avoid such a spiritual trap. We must truly reach out in love, seeking others in love. We must avoid our own selfish desires, and in this way we can maintain the love which should hold us together. It is by that love, by that bond of love, we reveal to the world we truly are Christians, for by such love, Christ continues to work in the world.
Thus, when asked about how to inherit eternal life, Jesus told a lawyer that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Lk. 10:27).If we do so, we shall experience what it means to be truly alive (cf. Lk. 10:28), for only when we have organized our lives around the dictates of love and fulfill them do we truly achieve our full potential.
To explain how we are to love our neighbor, Jesus provided the parable of the Good Samaritan. In it, he shows us that if we take care of our neighbor, we also fulfill our obligation to God. For in it a priest and the Levite walked around a man half-dead on the street, going on their way so that they can perform their normal duties, thinking those duties outweighed the needs of the dying man. Perhaps they thought, because all people eventually die, ignoring a man who would soon die anyway was insignificant in comparison to the rituals they felt they must perform. How sad that they could not see the image of God in the dying man; how sad that they could not see that by helping the man, they would have shown love and respect to God. A Samaritan, who was not seen as ritually pure, met up with the dying man and helped him. The Samaritan was shown to be the better neighbor, and in being better neighbor, to be the one who fulfilled the expectations of the law. We are called to consider the implications of the parable, to be like the Samaritan and consider the needs of those around us, even if it takes us out of our routine (even our liturgical routines). We must not consider the livelihood and life of anyone to be insignificant; we are not to shrug off those deaths which we could have prevented by saying “well, they would have died anyway.” We are to take care of people when we can do so, and if we do so, God will be pleased and our obligation to him will be fulfilled.
Christians must follow after and continue the work begun by Christ in his earthly ministry. Jesus served all through humble love. He fed the multitudes. He healed the sick. He comforted the oppressed even as he confronted the oppressor. He forgave sinners. By all that he did, he showed his love to humanity, indeed, to the whole of creation. How can we live a life worthy of our calling if we think what he did was insignificant? That is, how can we truly say we follow him if we think so little of helping people with their material needs, pitting them against spiritual obligations? Have we truly understood what Jesus said and did? Sadly, we have not. We often relativize and ignore the needs of others. We try to find ways to justify our inaction, and one of the ways is to say what we did for God, such as going to a liturgical service, was more important than being concerned about the material health and wellbeing of others.
If only we would pay attention to God instead of use him to excuse ourselves from doing what must be done. If only we applied the lesson of the parable of the Good Samaritan to ourselves, realizing that Jesus is himself the Good Samaritan, and we, therefore, should put ourselves in his position, and become the Good Samaritan to those around us today. We are called to love one another. We are called to love our neighbor. When we do so, we fulfill our calling, and in fulfilling our calling, we truly show our love for God. That is why, when we do so, God will be pleased with us. If, on the other hand, we try to use God as an excuse to ignore our neighbor, what do we think he will say to us when we come face to face with him at the last judgment? Do we think he will say well done faithful servant? But why would he do so, when he told us what to do and we did not do it? Let us, therefore, truly gird ourselves up in Christ; let us truly walk in his footsteps; let us put into practice the love which he showed to everyone, making sure their needs are met and their well-being is not marginalized because it gets in the way of what we think we should be doing for God. Jesus made it clear, by loving our neighbors, by acting on their behalf, we are doing it for him.
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