Cuddling a baby. Sitting up with a family member who’s going through hard times. Making that last phone call of the evening, to check on a friend. Sending a check to Doctors without Borders. Stopping to talk with that homeless guy who’s always begging near the Metro. Helping a coworker who’s heading down a destructive path. Standing up for someone whose rights are getting trampled.
All these are acts of love. Our new parish theme, introduced in car magnets and banners, is “Love Practiced Here.” When I think of the Gospel of Jesus – both what it promises us, and what it demands of us – it all comes down to love. The practice of love is our calling and our mission, day in and day out, in all kinds of circumstances.
Talking about love of God is easy; practicing Christian love is not. Why? Because Christ asks a lot of us. We are not to look after only our own interests, but invest in the wellbeing of others, in the common good. We are not to return evil for evil, but to stop the cycle of violence and seek ways to forgive.
This fall at St. Dunstan’s, we’ll explore this call of our Lord Jesus, this call to practice love. In sermons, adult formation, and articles like this one, we’ll try to get very specific and practical about the practice of love. Love can be hard. But if love were not possible, Jesus would not exhort us to practice it.
One trap I regularly fall into is this: I start thinking about the huge mess the world is in, and I begin to believe that nothing I can do will make a difference. I might as well keep my head down, and protect my own little world as best I can. But Jesus doesn’t ask us to love the whole world. Only God can love the whole world. Jesus asks us simply to love our neighbor…the one next to us in line, the person we work with or play with, the people in our families, the cashier at the grocery store. Sometimes we have a change to expand our circle of neighbors…for instance, we are exploring a parish effort to resettle refugees in our area this fall. Someone far away and strange to us can become our neighbor this way.
I hope you’ll join this conversation about practicing love. What have you learned? What do you find difficult? What rewards – and costs - of love have you experienced in your life? JBM