One of the challenges of Christianity, perhaps the greatest challenge, is truly believing that we are called to live lives in imitation of Jesus. His death on the cross was the ultimate “consequence” of a lifetime of showing us precisely what it means to be a holy, faithful, God-centered human being.
He came to save us — that much is absolutely true — but he also came to show us how to live, how to think, how to see, how to act — that is, how to love.
And it was his refusal to do anything BUT love that led him to the cross, a love so strong that it even rendered death powerless. Imagine that. Death has no power in the face of perfect love.
And while we will never love as perfectly as Jesus, for we are creatures after all, we are nevertheless called to strive for precisely that — to try to do the right thing by every person in every situation. God wants nothing less than our all, nothing less than our complete selves. Jesus gave that sort of faithfulness to his Father and the consequence was a “miracle” of the highest order — the salvation of the entire world.
If we tried to love in the same way, what might we help bring about? What difference might we make? And do we even want to find out?
We must be able to see ourselves as Jesus, as the one reaching out to a person in pain, reaching out in love, helping people be free of all that is keeping them bound.
We can’t simply say, “That’s God’s problem!” You see, in faith, we believe that God’s problems are OUR problems. And not because it has to be that way, but because God seems to want it that way, wants us to share in his mission, share in his goodness, share in his very life. And we do that by loving.
It’s as simple as that.
Too often we spend most of our lives in our little comfort zones. We foster friendships with people who are just like us. We hang around people who think like us, dress like us, pray like us and look like us. We watch news we agree with and visit websites that affirm what we already believe. We divide everything into boxes and categories — people “in” our group, and people “outside” of it.
Jesus did no such thing. In fact, time after time, he did the precise opposite. And so, who is that person in your life that seems to be really broken and hurting and in need of healing? Who is that person you know everybody runs from or avoids? Who is that man or woman you see day after day who has few friends, few people he or she can count on? Who do you know is being possessed by loneliness or fear or despair or grief? Who needs you to reach out to them, to not ignore them — but to see them?
The problems of this world can seem daunting at times. That much is absolutely true. And yet, in the end, it’s not complicated. It comes down to one person wanting to help one person — one person simply being willing to love another. Will I be that person? Will I be that person reaching out in love?
Deacon Stuart Neslin is a Deacon and Parish Administrator at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rome.