Every organization has a set of rules, dos and don’ts, directives for clarity among the members. Each member needs to know what is expected in order to belong. Christianity is no exception. However, rather than a long list of rules to follow, we only have one. “Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Rather than a whole rule book, we just have the two, which are really one commandment. Sounds simple; not so simple to live. Love is particular to human creatures and the characteristic that makes us more like God. God loved us first; that’s why He made us. All love comes from God. Sort of like parents who provide everything for their children; and the children buy gifts for their parents with the money they get from them. We love God with the gift of love that He has placed in our soul. God is the One who gives us the capacity to know what love is. Here’s the catch: We also have the capacity to refuse the gift. Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, we have free will—the freedom to choose. We have the freedom to choose to do something good or something bad. Consequences will result even when we choose not to choose. We want to act in love, according to the commandment of Jesus. Very difficult to love an irritating, nagging, gossipy neighbor. More of a challenge when the irritating, nagging, gossipy person is a relative, at times under the same roof. Although murder is a capital offense, the thought sometimes crosses our minds. Pope St. John XXIII was visiting the prison one day and stopped at the cell of a man who was facing the wall. He called out to him and the man made no response. The guard said, “Holy Father, this man is in jail for murdering his wife.” The Holy Father said, “Open the cell door and let me in.” The guard was apprehensive but obeyed. St. John XXIII got close to the man facing the wall and said, “I’ve never been married, but maybe if I was married, I might have killed my wife too.” And the man turned around and smiled and kissed the hand of the Holy Father. A moment when two souls connected in a common human condition. The condition is our sinful nature. We all lack in love, even the saints. Saints come close, but are not perfect, not even the Blessed Mother. Only God is perfect. Everybody else has to ask forgiveness, absolution so that we can be cleansed of our sins. Jesus knew well where we would most need His help—always in relationships. Our number one priority is our relationship with God and hand in hand is our relationship with others. Many of us will testify that loving God is easier than loving each other, especially when we are angry. Folks get angry at God, but we cannot hurt God. When we get angry with each other, resentments can leave a lasting hurt. Some people refuse to talk to each other for years. Money, land, political reasons—all rather dumb when we step back and think about how one day everything will turn to dust. What price can we put on a friendship? How much is a marriage worth? If possessions become more important than people, we have lost the direction of the greatest commandment. Nothing can be more important than God, more important than people. Fear is another enemy of relationship. We’ve got enough fear to last the rest of the century because of our present circumstances. Wisdom tells us that we should never act in anger or in fear. The combination is usually disastrous. Consider the riots, hate crimes, violence in homes—they are the result of uncontrolled anger and fear. Jesus gave us a commandment, not to inflict one more rule, but to set us free. Love makes us free, breaks all barriers. There is no limit on how much we can love. When we love, trust is closely connected; forgiveness keeps love fresh. Therefore, we have no excuses to say, I can’t love that person. All relationships are possible; otherwise the Lord would not have made love a commandment. God loved us first. God is the One who directs all humanity to Himself. The more that we love, the closer we get to heaven.
Msgr. Gustavo Barrera
celebrated his first Holy Mass as pastor on September 15, 2007, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. With his enthusiasm and spiritual guidance, OLS will continue to serve our Catholic family in a way that will challenge us to grow as an evangelizing community.
Msgr. Gustavo Barrera, Pastor.