PS 81: 6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 AND 17
As a Jesuit Volunteer in Syracuse, NY, I had the wonderful blessing of being a L’Arche assistant in a home where persons with and without disabilities live and create home together. This community of folks taught me so much about relationship and about love and about faith. One of the core members, a man with intellectual disabilities who lived in one of the homes, always offered up prayers for L’Arche communities around the world when we would gather. For him, faith was about an outpouring of love, love for his housemates, for L’Arche, and for God, and he was always reminding me that my own faith has grown and continues to grow from its roots in love.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus establishes the two most important commandments, both of which focus on how people of faith are called to love. Jesus responds to an inquiring scribe, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The scribe agrees with Jesus, and adds that following these two directives to love God and to love one’s neighbor "is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
I think that this reading points to the heart of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection and to the heart of the Lenten season. Today’s Gospel points to the central call for all of us to love. For my friend from L’Arche, faith is not just about piety; it is about caring for one another in wholeness and in brokenness. For him, living out the Gospel is not about punishment for those who do not adhere strictly enough; it is about choosing to love as an imperfect response to the unimaginable, perfect love that God has for all of us.
I feel that Lent is a time to deepen and cultivate our love for God, our love for neighbors, and our openness to neighbors who we have failed to recognize before. I hope that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving guide me and all of us toward greater love and renewed commitment to the neighbors among us who are most vulnerable and marginalized.
Questions to Guide Reflection and Prayer:
1. What experiences have shaped the ways you love God and your neighbors?
2. Who do you consider and love as your “neighbor?” Who have you failed to recognize and love as a “neighbor?”
3. How are you called to love this Lent? How are the communities of which you are a part called to love?
Emily Cybulla is a first year medical student at SLU. She graduated in 2015 from Loyola University Chicago and served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Syracuse, NY at L’Arche, an intentional community of folks with and without disabilities, before starting at SLU.