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Is Being Nice Enough?

October 25, 2020   Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Lectionary: 148)

Reading 1   EX 22:20-26

Thus says the LORD:
"You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry. 
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him. 
If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."
 

Responsorial Psalm   PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2   1 THES 1:5C-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. 
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything. 
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Alleluia   JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

By Michael Cabrera 

I consider myself a generally “nice” person. I mean, I refrain from commenting on someone’s less than ideal choice of outfit, or more recently, opt out of making fun of someone when they forget they are unmuted on Zoom. I find myself following this rulebook of niceties and accepted behaviors. And through maintaining this balancing act of tiptoeing around vulgarities and others’ insecurities, I consider myself to be a “nice” person. 

But, I read another anonymous story of depression and a toxic family situation on my school’s confession page. During the Rosary with my family, I notice the names of people who have passed away due to COVID-19 steadily increase.

I see yet another news story of an utter ignorance of the dignity of life. And I can’t help but question if being “nice” is enough. 

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” A phrase that seems to be on cyclical use for my pastor’s homilies. A phrase that my teachers plastered on the walls in Catholic middle school. A phrase that is said so liberally. A phrase that I still do not fully understand. 

In the midst of all that today is, I am reminded that I am not called to merely be polite. I am told in this reading to love my neighbor, as I love myself. This request is so radical, yet it seems to not even phase me. In the Bible, I read a story of how to love. A story of radical empathy. A story of an utter giving of self. A story of uncalculated vulnerability. A story that is sometimes encrypted behind generations of disconnect and a story that also, as seen in today’s Gospel, has a message that is so blatantly clear. 

Love does not mean an ingenuine attempt to convert my friends to Christianity. Love does not mean changing someone. Love has no agenda.

Beyond niceties, love is the bold attempt to just be with someone, in all that they are.

It is the radical act of just sitting with them, knowing full well I have no ability to fix their problems or make them feel better. It is kindness that does not calculate the probability of rejection. Love is the cross. 

It seems almost audacious to say that I am called to love my neighbor in the same way that Christ loves me. And it is even more imprudent to think I can love everyone in this way, because I can’t. But the ability to love like this comes not from within me, but flows freely from Love itself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Michael Cabrera is a current student at UC Berkeley and is active at the Newman Center, which is the Catholic center for the university. Originally from Southern California, Michael loves architecture, all things design, boba, and encountering Beauty itself in every moment.

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