Look around in nature. Look at everything you have ever seen in nature and know to be true.
In nature, among all living creatures, on land and in the sea, the strongest devour the weakest. The weakest, most vulnerable become the victims of the stronger. We also call it “bullying”.
Have you ever been around chickens, for example. In a flock of chickens, the stronger chickens will always choose a runt. They will harass the runt, attack it and kill it. This abusive behavior is repeated at all levels of life, all animals, even among humans. Human history is full of similar examples. Just look at the violence in Mexico and in the Middle East, or the abuse of children or of women.
But, as we learn from our faith, it is not so among God’s children. God calls humans to behave in exactly the opposite manner from animals and other humans.
Thus says the LORD:
“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.
And God will hold us accountable if we violate his commands. He says,
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.
In the Ten Commandments, God has given us the basic code of life in God’s Kingdom,
Thou shall not kill.
Thou shall not steal.
Honor you father and mother.
When the Pharisee asked Jesus which commandment of God’s Law is the greatest, Jesus responded to him,
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
And, he added,
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is not the law of nature. This the law of God. It is not natural. It is Divine. It is Christian.
St. Paul told the Thessalonians,
… you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers ….
We become models for others in the way we come together as parishioners and care for one another.
Look at our challenges today, we have in our midst many immigrants or aliens. Bishop Joe Vasquez came to our parish a few weeks ago to celebrate Mass for immigrants, teaching us to “Share the journey” with them.
We have sexual challenges of all kinds. We have been hearing in the news about people in positions of authority abusing women and children. It has happened with priests and bishops. For over a decade, the Church has required all ministers to receive frequent training regarding the protection of children and the vulnerable in the Ethics in Ministry program. We are making our Church a safe place for all.
We have many poor in our community. Our community is blessed to have a St. Vincent de Paul Society ministry with more and younger people, mostly Hispanics, joining in this ministry to the poor. Thanks be to God!
We help to send our disadvantaged children to Catholic schools, and we see the fruits for them and stronger families.
We become models for one another as a community.
Next week we will be making our annual appeal to support our Diocese, with the Catholic Services Appeal. We will each be asked to make commitments to support our Bishop and Diocese and the work they do in the coming year. We will each be asked to pledge financial support, to provide assistance throughout the Diocese, including support for Catholic Charities and Pro-life and Pro-family activities.
Catholic Christians are not like animals. We are not indifferent or abusive to one another. As we live and renew our faith in Jesus Christ, we grow more in his image and example, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our journey of faith is not a solitary, individual journey, but a community journey coming together to love God and to serve one another.