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,” said 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. Tell me where I can find him. I’ll give him a piece of my mind!” ”Well,” replies the young farmer, “he’s under the load of hay.”
Seriously, everyday people have a load of hay weighing them down. Whose task is it to help? A few years in America magazine, Jesuit Father Francis Clooney asks the question, “Why should I help you?” For one thing, the Good Samaritan Laws do not always protect me. For example, ten years ago, Lisa Torti pulled her friend Alexandra Van Horn from a car wreck fearing the car would explode. Now Alexandra is paralyzed blaming her friend for her condition. In 2008, the California Supreme Court permitted Alexandra to sue her friend Lisa. Alexandra claims that she was pulled from the car like a “rag doll.” If love is all we need, then how does the world get so goofed up? It is because of love, that is, our false sense of love.
The two greatest commandments are the love of God and 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 and the liturgy. When do I possess good will without cost towards my neighbor? It is when I do 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 Immigration and Poverty Laws. The Book of Exodus plainly explains it in black and white letters: do not oppress or molest the alien because you were once aliens yourselves. 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? 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 you helps 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 the Eucharist!
Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.