Friday, November 27, 2009

You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself: A Reflection On The Culture Of Death


By Patricia Arthur, RN, MSGL

I have long been aware the Culture of Death we find ourselves surrounded by is much deeper and far more insidious than may appear on the surface to the average person.  It is not difficult to identify the evil that defends and supports the murder of innocent pre-born children.  It is also not difficult to identify the evil that defends and supports the so-called right to die or assisted suicide policy being pushed upon us by a segment of society which has no courage or strength to endure life's struggles with the blessing of faith and trust in Divine Providence and with dignity.

What may not be so apparent to most is the fact that any lack of respect for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is at the very center of this diabolic culture we find ourselves in today.

With a little bit of reflection one can consider Matthew 22:36-39...

          "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind and strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  “This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’   (Leviticus 19:18).

...And discover, it does not take much more than a little common sense and the use of reason to be cognizant of this reality.  Our Lord is clearly comparing our love for Him with our love for His children.

As Christians we should be well aware every single command is an expression of these two commandments.  When we read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) we see that the first three are about loving God and the other seven are about loving our neighbor.  If  we were to read every line of the Bible, we would be able to put each command in column A (love of God) or column B (love of neighbor).  So these two commandments are without question the root of them all.

These two commandments are precisely the ones Christians of our day, as in the past keep breaking.  For some it seems, if they observe these commandments at all; it is not an act of divine worship but rather of self-promotion.  For some it seems, rather than observance of the law leading to love of neighbor, it leads to the scorn of those neighbors who fail to live up to the standards of some.

Jesus did not say to just love;  he said we must love the Lord with our WHOLE heart and soul and with ALL our mind and strength; and Jesus says the second commandment is like the first.  That’s because the kind of wholehearted love Jesus is talking about is charity (agape), which means loving God for his own sake and all others for His sake, and doing so not by human strength, but with the divine love that is poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). When we love others with charity, we love God through them.  Our every loving act towards them becomes an expression of our love for God.

Let us also reflect on Matthew 25:31-46 for a moment:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

What we notice in the reading of the sheep and the goats is not that the goats "go off to eternal punishment" for anything that they did; but rather, "'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' In other words the goats go off to eternal punishment for....omission....for failing to do what they ought.

From the very beginning of Genesis to the very end of Revelation, we see the story of a family; the universal family of God.  We see the consequences of sin and the rewards of faithful, humble, obedience to the Will of God.

We can also see from these two readings from the Gospel of Matthew, that love does not just happen.  In fact, love is a decision.  Love is a decision to do the morally correct thing, it is a decision to do what we ought, it is a decision to be obedient to the Will of God.

Rather than go into any major acts of love at this point I'd like to just mention healthy communication and relationships; which is in fact an expression of Christian charity and therefore an expression (or omission; as the case may be) of our love for God.

Before we begin looking at healthy communication and relationships; lets look at some hindrances to healthy communication and relationships:

  • Indifference to the others problems, interests or needs.
  • Moodiness, grouchiness or; bad attitude.
  • Lack of courtesy, politeness; or consideration.
  • Feelings of superiority, insecurity; or jealousy.
  • Lack of planning, sincerity; or commitment.
  • Sense of being used, taking advantage of; or using the other.
  • Being impatient, taken for granted; or taking the other for granted.
  • Not treating the other with proper respect.
  • Insults, rudeness, sarcasm or; criticism.
  • Ridiculing, belittling, shunning; or ignoring.
  • Not listening; or not hearing what the other is saying.
  • Not giving to the other, the benefit of the doubt.
  • Being influenced by the opinion, thoughts, views; or feelings of another.
  • Pre-judging the others intentions, or meaning or; jumping to conclusions.
  • Accusing the other, bringing up old stuff, blaming; or bearing false witness.
  • Needing to be right, refusing to listen, cutting the other off, hanging up.
  • Not returning calls, e-mails, or letters.
  • Having a position of being offensive or defensive.
  • Pacifying, giving false assurance, telling the other what you think they want to hear.
  • Abruptly changing the subject; or minimizing the feelings of the other.
  • Contradictory words versus body language.

So just exactly what are some of the components of healthy communication?

Communication is both verbal (or written) and non-verbal, it is both seen and heard.  Communication is an exchange of ideas and information, thoughts and feelings, opinions and facts depending on the situation.  To have a healthy relationship and thus communicate in a healthy manner requires an intellectual and emotional comittment; as well as the position of mutual trust, well-being, honesty, openness, empathy, respect, acceptance and of being genuine.  The genuine person is reliable, responsible, committed, helpful, spontaneous, non-defensive, consistent and willing to share openly.

The most important aspect of healthy communication is to make a decision to listen with the heart.  To listen with the heart means:

          I will make room in my heart beyond my feelings and beyond what I understand with my head. Listening with the heart means; I will be 'other-centered'.  I put my own thoughts and feelings aside and try to take in the thoughts and feelings of the other.  I go beyond the words to meet the real person who is trying to say something to me.

Some elements of listening with the heart:

  • A decision to listen.
  • An attitude of openness to listening.
  • The whole person is present listening.
  • The other, knows they are being listened to.
  • Clarifications and responses are given.
  • Listening is for the sake of the other.

Without a decision to do the morally correct thing, to do what we ought, and to be obedient to the Will of God; in our relationships with our husbands or wives, children or parents and all the other "neighbors" God puts in our lives, we risk being goats and being sent off to eternal punishment.

In conclusion, if we were more attentive to the commandments of our Lord. if we concerned ourselves with not offending Him in the little things, we would never have gotten to the point of allowing over 50 million pre-born children to be ripped from their mothers wombs or allowing adults to be deprived of food and hydration simply because they had lost value in the eyes of secular society.

May God have mercy on us and our country.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Very nice blog! Your post here is very appropriate - very good information to use for a good examination of conscience.

God bless!