Saturday, January 12, 2013

Loving Neighbor

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. First and foremost, your fellow countrymen are our fellow Catholics and those in communion with the Pope. They are our brothers. Extended from those, our fellow countrymen are those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Although they may not be in communion with us, they are baptized into the same Lord Jesus. These are our next of kin. Extended from those are our fellow human beings. These are our extended relatives.

Jesus loved the sinner so much that He became incarnate, took our sins upon Himself—although He was without sin—and died for us. There will inevitably be times when we will have a grudge against others, but we must not cherish (feed) that grudge. We cherish a grudge when we dwell upon it, justifying why we should be angry. On the other hand, when we do have a grudge, we should mourn the fact that we have a grudge, regardless of who is at fault. We should be confessing it as our sin because, if we had handled the situation differently, perhaps the grudge would not have been. We definitely should not take revenge. When Jesus was falsely accused and persecuted, He did not retaliate, but prayed for His persecutors, praying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

You may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him. This we are bent to do by reason of our fallen nature. As Catholics, when we are in agreement with the Church, we have full truth. We are to rebuke our brother when he is doing wrong. We are also to rebuke our near kin and our extended relatives. If we do not rebuke, we sin. When we do rebuke, it must be done with love and gentleness that the circumstance entails. We are prone to argue, and even get angry, when others disagree with us, especially when we know we are right. This leads rapidly to anger and bearing hatred in our heart.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. Jesus had just completed His forty days in the wilderness, by tempted by Satan. He had been “driven” into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, and He now returns in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to take careful note of this. When we are in our “desert places,” it may very well be—and, in all probability, is—because the Holy Spirit has “driven” us there, that we may be strengthened so that we will persevere in the Faith. It is not by our strength that we persevere; it is by the grace of God, and this through prayer.

Now, Jesus returned to Galilee. Let us focus on “Galilee” a little. “Galilee” means “circuit.” During the reign of Solomon, Hiram rendered some services for the building of the temple by giving him timber and laborers, and Solomon paid him by giving him land containing twenty cities. Hiram was extremely disappointed with the gift, considering the cities worthless. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Hiram called this land “’the land of Cabul.’ The Jews called it Galil. It continued long to be occupied by the original inhabitants, and hence came to be called ‘Galilee of the Gentiles,’ and also ‘Upper Galilee,’ to distinguish it from the extensive addition afterwards made to it toward the south, which was usually called ‘Lower Galilee’.”

I am focusing on the fact that the cities were considered worthless by a king and that there were many Gentiles there who, of course, were considered “worthless” by the Jews. Nazareth was in Galilee, and even Nathanael questioned, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Hear St. Paul, the apostle, “Consider your own calling, brothers: Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.” Possibly, Jesus went the “circuit,” finishing up in Nazareth.

Having finished the “circuit,” it was by no coincidence that He arrived in Nazareth that, on the day of Rest, He went into the synagogue, stood up, and read the passage contained in Isaiah, confessing that He is the Messiah. Consider from where our Lord had come prior to His Advent. He condescended to become a man, making His abode with the filth that we had willingly become. He who is Holy, who is Life, loved mankind so much that He willingly made His abode with the stench of death in order that He might redeem us, allowing us to share in His divine life—the Great Exchange.

The Word, God, did not become Incarnate because we were basically “good,” having a few defects. Now, when Adam sinned, we became progressively worse. The Law did not make us better; it made us worse, as testified to by St. Paul: “I did not know sin except through the Law, and I did not know what it is to covet except that the Law said, ‘You shall not covet;’ but sin, finding an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetousness…for sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it put me to death.”

Christ left His abode with Living in order to make His abode with death and the dying, in order that He might redeem us, that we might make our abode with the Living. Shall we then continue to live in death? Shall we continue in the desires and deeds of death? Holiness is no longer living as though we are the dead and dying, but the living. May God, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, give us the grace to do so, to discern between Life and Death and act accordingly.  T.T.