“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. . .
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend
on these two commandments.”
From Sunday’s Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40
One of my favorite liturgical songs is a relatively newer one by Jesse Manibusan entitled “Hold Onto Love”. The Chorus is: “Hold on to love where hope is found, hold on to love where joy abounds. Hold on to love where grace and mercy are overflowing. Hold on to love.” For those who wish to hear the song, you can find it on YouTube. The lyrics to the verses are also appropriate for what we are experiencing today with the suffering and strife in our world. One of them states: “When terror and fear overwhelm us, hold on to love. Courage and faith will sustain us, hold on to love. The phrase “hold onto love” repeats itself throughout the song and marks it with a calming, peaceful feeling that no matter what we go through in life if we embrace the gift of love, we will be alright.
The Gospel listed above reminds us that the greatest commandment is actually made up of two: loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. We love God when we take time to pray, reflect upon God’s Word, and worship as a community of faith; we serve God when we answer the call to whatever vocation in life we are being led. We love our neighbor when in light of the first reading from Exodus 22:20-26, we care for the most vulnerable in our midst: the alien, meaning foreigners in our land, the widow, and the orphan. I know many struggle with the issue of so many undocumented persons entering our country. While we pray for a new comprehensive immigration reform that does not seem to be coming any time soon, this passage reminds us that the immigrant is also our neighbor. Many know that Catholic Charities assists immigrants, but many may not know that these are all legal stages of the immigration process. As we reflect upon these readings, we pray our hearts be open to holding on to love for all people. The following is an excerpt from a Prayer for Immigrants by Pope Francis:
“We entrust to you all those who have made this journey, enduring fear, uncertainty, and humiliation, in order to reach a place of safety and hope. Just as you never abandoned your Son as he was brought to a safe place by Mary and Joseph, so now be close to these, your sons and daughters, through our tenderness and protection. In caring for them may we seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity, and peace. Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centeredness. Inspire us, as nations, communities, and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters.”
Do we take the time to reach out to someone who has recently lost a loved one or to a child that is needing guidance and caring? Do we have compassion for those seeking a better way of life despite the messiness and fragmentation of a broken immigration system in our country? May we truly love all, not just some, of our neighbors as Exodus calls us to. May we continue to “hold onto love”.