In week three of the “Rediscover Catholic Faith” series at St. Joseph’s, Father Jim Schwartz talks about the “Great Commandment” in this Sunday’s Gospel as the “guts” of Catholic morality: “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 first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I believe that, really believe that. And I thought that my recent years’ ministry experiences had gotten me beyond some of the stereotypes and knee-jerk reactions that can lurk in the dark recesses of our suburban hearts when we encounter those living in different circumstances from ourselves. Recent experiences tell me I have a long way to go in living the Great Commandment.
This summer, when we were “between homes” for a few weeks, we were blessed to have an apartment in Rochester available to us, thanks to our future son-in-law, Ryan, and daughter, Sarah. It seemed like an adventure at first—sleeping on a mattress, camp chairs as the only furniture, no cooking utensils—maybe a mini vacation of sorts. But the feeling soon changed when we realized that Ryan’s and Sarah’s upstairs tenants were less than model renters. In the first week we had to call the police twice to break up violent domestic disputes; we listened with sinking hearts to the place being trashed; and I got bit by one of their dogs. I found myself having less-than-Christian feelings toward more than the aggressive canine.
Now we are happily resettled in Webster, the town known as the place “where life is worth living.” We are fortunate to have a charming apartment with beautiful green space, and a spectacular park and walking trails right out our back door. A place that even welcomes our beloved, 87-pound, very lively labradoodle, Cooper.
But guess what? We don’t have model renters upstairs in Webster either. They yell at each other; they are not light on their feet; they have too many cars; they don’t pick up after their dog (when they let the little guy out). I find myself having less-than-Christian feelings toward more than the messy pup.
Perhaps St. Augustine has the best prayer. “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” I believe the Great Commandment is the way to live but it’s hard when it’s your actual neighbors testing your Christian values. Help my unbelief!