How Much Do You Really Love God?

I’m sure I’m like most people who when I hear about the violence that took place in Dallas last week, I feel pain and sadness. How could there be so much evil in the world? Yet, I look around and it’s much more than just the violence that makes me sad. There seems to be an upswing in hate, division, using others to get something, blaming others for past hurts, all of which just brings more pain to the world. Using violence to solve a problem of injustice, whether justified or not, never solves the problem. It just makes it worse…always.

It’s easy to look at these events and not connect ourselves to them, but we are all connected and a part of the problem or solution. It all comes down to this. How much do I love God? You might say, “Well, I go to mass once a week, pray the rosary, participate in bible studies, go to confession regularly, and try to live a good life. So, I think I love God pretty good so I’m not adding to the problem.” Or, you might be saying “Loving God? How does that fix the problems around me and in the world?” Well, think about this. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933, said this:

“You only love God as much as you love the person you love the least.”

Ouch! If you are like me, when I heard that it hit me like a 2×4 between the eyes. It really made me stop and think about how much I love people (or fail to love people) as an indicator of how much I love God. How much do I love the person I love the least? I think I am like most people and find myself pulled toward people who have stature, wealth or charisma, those we find interesting or charming or pretty or famous? But people we consider plain or dowdy, those of lesser rank performing menial tasks, the unsung and uncelebrated are not treated with the same regard.

Can’t we all relate? Why are we like this? I think it’s our insecurity. We want to hang out with the ‘cool’ people, the ‘funny’ people, the ‘hot’ people because that makes us look ‘cooler’, ‘funnier’, or ‘hotter’. But what about Jesus? Who did Jesus hang out with? The disciples were not the ‘cool’ people. They were really very average, they were awkward and often messed things up. They fought with each other and they even abandoned Jesus just when he needed them most. Who else did Jesus hang out with? Tax collectors, Samaritan women, prostitutes, lepers – people with questionable character and often on the fringes of society. Why? Not to be like them, but to transform them, by His love.

Our Lord has the following to say in Matthew 5:44-47:

44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?

Jesus is challenging us not to measure our love by how much we love the people who love us back, but more so the people who are lost, hurting and forgotten, and yes, even those who hate you. How many people are we willing to reach out to? How many drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes or homeless? What about the people who are hurting or on the fringes of culture and society? People who struggle with same-sex attraction? Sex addiction? Transgender? Immigrants? Disabled or the elderly?

How much do you really love God?

“You only love God as much as you love the person you love the least.”

Don’t we all have a tendency to judge the person instead of judging the sin? Yes, we are called to speak the Truth, but without Love, what is truth but a clanging gong. You can ‘know’ all the Truth that can be known but without Love, you are a hypocrite. I know I have been a hypocrite many times.

We are to speak the Truth, but with Love and Mercy. Not words of condemnation. When you speak bad of someone, gossip, look down upon them, we are doing so to God. In fact, Jesus says the fate of our eternal soul rests upon how we treat others, and not just our friends.

Matthew 25:33-45

33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

Just this past Sunday we heard in the Gospel reading the story we are all familiar with. The story of the Good Samaritan:

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

This is the kind of Love that Jesus loves us with, the kind of love that put Him on a cross. It’s the very same love we are called to love everyone with, not only our family and our next-door neighbor, but everyone, even the person who we find the least desirable. The guy at work who irritates you, the neighbor who doesn’t mow his lawn, the drug addict who you saw with all the tattoos at the convenience store, the person who yelled at you on the road because they saw your “choose life” sticker on your car, everyone!

How much do you really love God?

“You only love God as much as you love the person you love the least.”

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