However, I hesitated for a moment and thought about the Ignatian volunteers who go out week after week, year after year, bringing hope and dignity to people marginalized or living in or on the edge of poverty. There is only word to describe this service accurately, love. Love of God and love of neighbor is what motivates and propels Ignatian volunteers into action.
The greatest commandment is laid out for us in today’s gospel, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus was explicit; God comes first. He then goes on to say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love your neighbor as yourself? Hold on, this changes everything. If we are asked to love our neighbor as we love ourselves the responsibility to be sure our neighbor has food and housing takes on a whole new meaning. It means we care for our neighbor as we care for our own family. It means we work to guarantee all children have a quality education, not just our children. It means all families have access to healthcare, not just our family. It means we move out of our comfort zone of providing only for our family and consider how we might provide for your family.
To thrive as a society and as a church we are called first and foremost to love God. However, Jesus did not stop there. He taught over and over that love of God would move us to caring for each other. What if faith communities truly embraced this teaching? What if they welcomed, “regardless of your situation in life, whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, whatever the state of your marriage, including those in a mixed faith marriage, and those sharing a home without marriage.” What if they welcomed others “whether you are gay or lesbian, transgender or straight, an immigrant or a newcomer, whether you are fully or differently abled, healthy or sick, old or young, rich or poor?" What if they welcomed “whether you are struggling with your faith or firm in your commitment?” These words are taken from the covenant of Padre Serra Parish and speak to issues Ignatian volunteers ponder over at their monthly meetings. The question comes down to who is our neighbor? The answer is muted in some circles these days.
Our monthly meetings, once filled with energetic discussion, good food, hugs and handshakes now take place over Zoom. Initially, it was a worry. How would we capture the sacred moments and continue the spirited discussions? Gratefully, the Zoom screen is full every month. Prayer and discussion continue as does the service of the volunteers.