THE CALL TO JOY
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. . . Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:37-39)
I once read a story of a ninety-year-old Catholic Iraqi widow named Victoria whose city was overrun by ISIS fighters. Unable to escape because of her age, she spent several days hiding in her home, praying with a few of her friends. Speaking of this ordeal, she later said, “Prayer sustained us.” When she eventually went out in search of food and water, she was confronted by ISIS fighters who threatened to kill her if she did not convert immediately to Islam. Victoria and her friend Esther replied, “We believe that if we show love and kindness, forgiveness and mercy, we can bring about the Kingdom of God on earth as well as in Heaven. Paradise is about love. If you want to kill us for our faith, then we are prepared to die here and now.” The ISIS fighters miraculously spared their lives.
These women had lost everything in this senseless war but in the midst of these hardships, they chose to love God in constant prayer and to even share this message of love with those who did not consider them worthy of living simply because they were Christians. They put the only thing that they had left – their lives – on the line to speak boldly of God’s loving plan to communicate His love to unworthy humanity. These women could act with such heroism because for them, love of God and neighbor was more than a mere Commandment, but it was a necessary path to the joys of Paradise. “Paradise is all about love.”
Throughout the many challenges of the present pandemic, can we choose to love God and neighbor with all that we have to the very end? If our answer is YES, we may still experience difficulties, but we will also have a deep interior joy that nothing or no one can take away. God calls us to love Him and others because He wants to share with us His own beatifying life even as we travel through the hardships of these days. The Commandment to love God and neighbor, as well as all the Commandments, are avenues to enter the joy of the Lord. We cannot consider the Commandments, especially the Commandment of Love, apart from God’s love for us and His desire to share with us His own joy.
In Jesus Christ, God has freed us to love and offered His Son to us as a model of love. The grace that flows from the Son of God to us is to bring us to love the Father and others as Christ did. It is in loving like Christ that we share the joy of His Spirit. The Commandment to love God and neighbor is further engraved in our hearts each time we encounter Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Through the reception of His own Body and Blood, Jesus enables us to pattern our lives more closely to His. Because we are infinitely loved by God, we must strive daily to practice this greatest of all Commandments—Love of God and Neighbor. If we cooperate with God’s Grace and Love faithfully, our reward will be a share in His deep, interior joy now and throughout Eternity!
God bless you!
Sr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, IHM