More excellent scriptural readings just one week before the election! (Exodus 22:20-26, 1Thessalonians 1;5c-10, Matthew 22:34-40)
Once upon a time, a priest walks down a country lane. He sees a young farmer struggling to load hay back onto a cart after it had falls off. ”It looks as if you are struggling there,” says the priest. “Why don’t you rest a moment, and I’ll give you a hand.” ”No thanks,” says the young man, my father wouldn’t like it.” ”Don’t be silly,” the priest says. ”Everyone is entitled to a little help. I have some water here, come have a drink.” Again, the young man protests that his father would be upset. Losing his patience, the priest says, “Your father must be a real slave driver. Where is he by the way?” ”Well,” replies the young farmer, “he’s under the load of hay.”
In these days of COVID-19 and unemployment, many people have a load of hay weighing them down.
A number of years ago in America magazine, Jesuit Father Francis Clooney asks the question, “Why should I help you?” You vote Democrat, why should I help you? You vote Republican, why should I help you? You’re black, white, immigrant, poor, homeless, in prison…why should I help you?
Keep in mind the two greatest commandments are the love of God and the love of neighbor. Jesus does not use words like “hug,” or “be affectionate towards,” or “have a good warm feeling for God and neighbor.” Jesus actually says, “be of good-will without cost” towards God and neighbor. When do I possess good will without cost towards God? It is when I remain faithful to prayer. When do I possess good will without cost towards my neighbor? It is when I practice justice! We are speaking here about God’s justice, not “American justice.” God’s justice is mercy, upon mercy, upon mercy. In my opinion, the true American test of love of God and neighbor lies in our approach to immigration and poverty.
The Book of Exodus explains it in black and white letters: do not oppress or molest the alien because you were once aliens yourselves. We were once aliens from Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The United States Catholic Bishops are explicit in their teaching on our problems with immigration. According to the bishops, if the immigrant is not a drug dealer, trafficker, or terrorist, why not let them earn legalization that does not drag on for years? Why separate parents from their native born children? And why are we not asking the important question: “What are the causes of migration?” Remember, most of us would not be here today if our ancestors did not migrate from other countries.
So, why should I help you with that heavy load of hay? How appropriate, one week before the election, when I fear we allow others to influence our feelings towards one another. I should help you because you are right next to me. You help me love God. In the words of St. Paul, helping you help others is a loving model for other believers. Helping youhelps me to focus on the common good. Helping you helps me to improve and advance our society. Helping you helps me to enter into the rich meaning of Christianity!
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
The 30th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A