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Do This and You Will Live
Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Opening Prayer: You have given me the gift of this new day. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for creating me, for redeeming me, for giving me the gift of faith, for wanting to spend this time with me. I need your grace, and you deserve my praise. Help me to approach this time with you with a truly docile heart and a mind undimmed by self-centeredness and unhealthy self-absorption.
- Jesus Wants Us to Live: Jesus’s response to the curious scholar who correctly answered his own question should fill us with hope: Do this and you will live. A full life, a meaningful life, a fulfilling life—isn’t that the deepest desire of every human heart? Isn’t that the desire we find at the core of every other desire? All the choices we make, all the decisions and the sacrifices we make, are made because we think they will help us live life more fully, more satisfactorily, more happily. This core desire of ours is also Christ’s core desire for us: “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He created us. He wrote this core desire into the depths of our souls. He wants to satisfy it. In fact, that’s why he came to earth: to give us the light and grace to know and to follow the path to a more and more fulfilling life both here on earth and forever in heaven. All we need to do is follow that path—Christ’s path. Nothing else really matters. How firmly do I believe that? How courageously am I willing to give that direction to my daily life?
- Who Is My Neighbor?: The scholar who questioned Jesus “wished to justify himself.” He wanted to show how much he knew. He wanted to show off. He wasn’t really interested in the truth; he was interested in making a good impression. And yet, Jesus took advantage of the conversation to give the world one of his most unforgettable parables. He linked the two great loves–love for God and love for neighbor–in one great commandment, and then he clarified what he meant by “neighbor.” If we want to experience the fullness of life, all we need to do is follow this teaching of the double love. The problem comes when we run across someone who is difficult to love. Usually, that person is very close to us, as close as he was to the priest and the Levite—roads were not wide in those days, and the half-dead victim was so close that a passerby like them could easily see the color of his eyes. Only the Samaritan, the foreigner, actually had mercy on this man. The others ignored him, avoiding him. Of all the people close to me, the people I see and interact with every day, which ones do I truly see? All people are in need of love, of acceptance, of being treated like the children of God they truly are. And yet, how easy it is for our own fears, concerns, or preoccupations to make us blind and insensitive! Our neighbors, the people right next to us, our family members and colleagues, and yes, even perhaps our actual next-door neighbors—these are the ones who have the nearest claim on our love.
- Our Mission Starts Here: St. Francis of Assisi didn’t start out as a saint. He started out just like we did—as a sinner with his own unique personality, inclinations, and family and social background. In fact, he was a vain and spoiled troublemaker before he welcomed God’s grace into his life. He longed to achieve fame and glory by fighting in foreign wars and becoming a great Christian knight. He set off to do just that, not once, but twice. The first time he ended up being captured by his foes and imprisoned for a year. The second time he came back quickly of his own accord, having discerned a different path. God did indeed have a great mission for this dandy of a merchant’s son, but it was a mission that began close to home—in his own hometown, in fact. He began his simple, radical living of the Gospel right there, in spite of his father’s opposition and the initial mockery of his friends and neighbors. The Franciscan revolution, which is still pumping out grace all over the world eight hundred years later, began in Francis’s backyard, with a leprous neighbor he met and embraced on a road close to home. Maybe God is offering something similar for us. Maybe the revolution each one of us is called to spark is right on our doorstep, just waiting for us to embrace it.
Conversing with Christ: Life seems so complicated, Lord. Can it really be as simple as you are telling me it is? To love you, to love my neighbor—is that really the path to the fullness of life that I yearn for so drastically? I know it is. You have made it so clear by your own example, the example of so many saints—and yet, here I am, still looking for another way. Free me from my fears, from my arrogance, from my ignorance! Enlighten my mind, O Lord, and strengthen my heart, so that I can give you the joy of doing your will and receiving your gift of a more abundant life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take the time necessary to truly encounter the people you put in my path, to see them as you see them, to hear them and listen for their real needs, and offer them the balm of sincere appreciation and acceptance.
For Further Reflection: “Uncle Eddy’s email” on St. Francis of Assisi, or Pope Leo XIII’s brief encyclical on St. Francis of Assisi.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.
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