Widen the Circle!

Once upon a time, Mrs. Montgomery asks her class about love. She turns to Michelle, age 9, and asks her: “Michelle, what are most people thinking about when they are in love?” “Well, I think people are thinking, ‘Yeah, I do love him, but I hope he showers at least once a day.’” Then Mrs. Montgomery asks the class, “How do we make love last?” Roger, age 8, immediately raises his hand and says, “It helps to remember your wife’s name.” Then the teacher asks, “How do people in love learn how to kiss?” Carin, age 9, blurts out, “It helps to watch soap operas, we can learn from them.”

We can learn love from Jesus Christ!

I give you a new commandment- love one another!

In the time of Christ, you mean to tell me that they never loved people before in their lives? Sure they did. If we are talking about loving friends, many people loved their friends. If we are talking about married love, many married people loved their spouses. “ “I give you a new commandment, LOVE one another,” Christ tells us at the Last Supper in the Gospel of John. The word is agape. It is not a “friendship” LOVE. It is not an “attraction” LOVE. It is a LOVE that “cares for you because you are a human being kind of LOVE.” It is a love that “cares for you because you are made in God’s image and likeness kind of LOVE.” It is a love that “cares for you because Jesus reaches out to everyone and I must do the same kind of LOVE.” What is missing from this Gospel is that Jesus washes the feet of the Twelve. He washes the feet of Peter who fights him tooth and nail and later will deny him three times. He washes the feet of Judas who leaves after the dinner to betray him. He washes the feet of the others who will run away on those same clean feet to abandon their Lord. The Lord commands LOVE because it extends to everyone, the good and the bad, those in the circle and those outside the circle. According to the scripture scholar, Sister Barbara Reid, Jesus commands us to LOVE one another so that we widen our circles. LOVE is not mutually exchanged among Christians and ends at the door. LOVE is not just for the attractive or nice Christians in our congregation. LOVE is agape and it includes everyone (whether we like it or not).

But this is where the rubber hits the road. In this election year, it gets a little difficult to turn on the television because of all the vitriol. Apart from the gun discussion, no topic is hotter than immigration. Jesus tells us to LOVE one another. LOVE so that you and I will widen our circles. But does it include the immigrant?

Did you know that in the year 2003, the bishops of both the United States and Mexico published a pastoral letter entitled, Strangers No Longer (a pastoral letter confronting migration and immigration)?[1] In this comprehensive study of migration and immigration, both countries’ bishops name two things as the reason for the influx of immigrants south of the border: jobs and family. Since the family unit is a strong Mexican value, immigrants come looking to join family members in the United States. Here they attempt to rejoin loved ones and to find the same opportunities that others have found in the job market. What takes so long as they take up residence is the documentation and the process of becoming a citizen in the days after 9-11. If the immigrant is illegal it is not because they want my house or money or because they cheat the system to drain the American economy. They remain illegal because of the lack of language skills. Also, the process is expensive and it takes from eight to eleven years to process strict documentation. I know a Catholic pastor in our diocese that spent over $7,000.00 to get one of his staff members a green card so that he can remain here legally. In the end, together we must find a solution…but intolerable prison conditions and extradition of immigrants’ children born in this country do not reflect the Gospel command to LOVE one another.

Without LOVE the early Church would not have grown. The disciples widened their circle and included Jew and Greek, old and young, male and female. And it is only with LOVE that we can behold a new heaven and a new earth. “God’s dwelling is with the human race.” God dwells with us and will always be with us as our God. This includes everyone, American and Mexican, Jew and Arab, and everyone who seeks the liberty of our country.

LOVE is what brings us here today. At this sacred meal of ultimate LOVE, Jesus widens heaven’s circle to include you and me. Christ’s LOVE stands as an example. In His words, “Behold, I make all things new.”                  ~Fr. Becket

[1] http://www.usccb.org/mrs/stranger.shtml

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