Love Does No Evil to the Neighbor

September 6, 2020

St. Paul is writing to the people of Rome in uncertain times yet his message is clear, love is the fulfillment of the law and we are called not only to love our neighbor but our enemy as well.  I really believe we are in an exciting time to revisit Church, our faith and what we are called to do.  Living out love involves sacrifice but it also doesn’t need an organized committee to hold a meeting about it.  Common sense tells us how mercy and love can be transforming.

This past week I was invited to a special gathering.  A priest friend and mentor Fr. Tom was celebrating his 85th birthday.  He invited 4 priests to an outdoor patio to have a late lunch.  I was honored to be one of the four.  He will celebrate his 60th anniversary of ordination this spring.  At the table was a college classmate of mine who serves in the Archdiocese of Chicago, a retired priest who was one year ahead of Fr. Tom in the seminary and a pastor with one more year until retirement.  As we spoke and as we listened, it was joy to see Fr. Tom thrilled with the conversation.  As the three of us in active ministry shared concerns and stories, it was the retired priests who spoke of how when a gathering of priests comes together, there is a respect and a love.  They spoke of one of the hardships of this time are priests’ funerals.  At those gatherings the fellow priests typically all come together, despite some jealousy and competition, despite some disagreements of philosophy and theology.   In those priestly gatherings, we all gather with a sense of respect and overcome any differences we might have.  On my drive home I reflected deeply on this realization. The only priest funeral I have attended at the Cathedral of St. Raymond was for my great friend and mentor Fr. Vytas during the shutdown.  I was selected because I was the one Fr. Vytas had pre-chosen to give the homily at his funeral.  The church had only 6 people in it.  His own sister could not even attend due to the reality that she would not be allowed back to her retirement facility for two weeks if she left it.  Some of Fr. Vytas’ best priest friends were in the same situation.  It was just two of us representing the entire presbyterate surrounding the bishop.  That reality sunk in as I listened around the table.   Love is lived and seen in simple ways.

St. Paul invites us to reflect on how love is lived.  It is a gesture or a bow to our neighbor who might or might not be wearing a mask.  It is thanking our health care workers and calling them heroes.  As the fatigue of the virus has challenged every effort to go back to school, how we move past numbers and statistics to engage in life is essential.  Divisions occur, but love is deeper.  Our efforts to be thankful and realize the pressure and burden of others is a starting point.  Listening is also essential.  Wisdom is shared when we listen and integrate what is being shared.  It may not mean we agree, but it means through thought and prayer we can find a place to respect the other, even when we disagree.  That is not just reactionary rhetoric.

Love is possible; love is the fulfillment of the law.  May we do no evil to our neighbor even when we disagree.

Father John Ouper