Our Vocation is Love

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Our Gospel account today has Jesus laying out before us the two Great Commandments: Love God above all things and love one’s neighbor as one love’s oneself.  All of life is based on living out these two commandments.

We live in an age that encourages selfishness and self-centeredness.  The sad reality is that even those who have been elected to serve us in public office promote the mentality of America first, at the expense of other nations.  Such a mentality moves us away from being a global community where we are morally responsible for one another, to a country that is based on greed and it’s all about me.  Our country’s greatness is only to be found in our generosity to all nations.

In the Sacred Scriptures we see that God is deeply concerned about the way we treat one another.  Our vocation is love.  When we love as Jesus loves we find that our generosity brings us great joy.  However, when we refuse to love we experience deep within emptiness and sadness.

There was a famous Jewish teacher who lived in Spain in the twelfth century by the name of Maimonides.  In his wisdom he outlined the eight degrees or steps in what he called the Ladder of Charity.  I offer them to you for your reflection.

  1. The first and lowest degree is to give, but with reluctance or regret.  This is the gift of the hand, but not of the heart.
  2. The second is to give cheerfully, but not in proportion to the distress of the sufferer.
  3. The third is to give cheerfully and in proportion to the need, but not until we are asked.
  4. The fourth is to give cheerfully, proportionately, and even unasked, but to put it into the poor man’s hand, thereby exciting in him the painful emotion of shame.
  5. The fifth is to give in such a way that the needy may receive the alms and know their benefactor, without the benefactor knowing them.
  6. The sixth is to know the recipients of our charity, while remaining unknown to them.
  7. The seventh is to bestow charity in such a way that the benefactor does not know the recipient, or the recipient the benefactor.
  8. Lastly, the eighth and most meritorious way of all, is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty.  This can be done by giving a gift or a loan of money to enable an indigent person to get back on his feet, or by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest livelihood, and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity.

Mark Twain said, “One of the nicest things that can happen to a person is to do good by stealth and be found out by accident!

 — Fr. Dennis, November 4, 2018