“THE LABOR OF LOVE”          

by Fr. Walt Wainwright

This Monday will be Labor Day, the day many refer to as the last holiday of summer.  By happy coincidence today’s second scripture reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans speaks to us about the great labor of love, the greatest of the commandments of the Lord.

In today’s reading St. Paul puts it this way.  He says, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.”  I wonder if we think of loving as a labor.  It certainly can’t be difficult to love, can it?  The sad reality is that in some circumstances people, at times, find it terribly difficult to love another person or persons.  In fact in our world today there is too much hatred that blinds us to the beautiful vision of loving another person.

Another dimension of the labor to love is that it is at the very basis of God’s Law.  That certainly makes it all the more important for us to keep loving at the forefront of our lives.  But, of course, we have to deal with our own personality and that of everyone else when it comes to loving them.  It shouldn’t but it does.  All too often we might use the phrase, ‘I don’t like this or that person.  He rubs me the wrong way, or he or she always has to be right, their opinion is the only one that counts.  Yes, I know all these different humanisms (I like to call them) get in the way but we have to brush those things aside and consider very plainly that this is God commandment to us, He even places it at the highest peak of all the commandments, say that all the rest depend on this one commandment:  love one another as we love ourselves.

Now there’s a real catch.  Love everybody as we love ourselves?  Yes!  That is exactly what the Lord said, plain and simple.  So the next big question seems to be how do I love myself?  That can be a lifetime task, discerning how I love myself and balancing that off on how I love my neighbor.  And as the gospel asks us in another place, “Who is my neighbor?”  It’s not just the people who live next door to us or down the street, the ones we might refer to as ‘well we ‘neighbor with them’ which leads us to ask, well what about the two families who live in between.

But we have to consider far beyond those who live on our block when we think of who my neighbor is.  My neighbor is also the person I have yet to encounter for the very first time in my live, the stranger I come upon who is in dire need, the elderly person, for example who suddenly has car trouble and needs a lift or someone to call a mechanic for them.  It can be any number of situations we might think we will never encounter.

You see, the Lord deliberately left all of these possible situations out of the equation.  He wants us to be surprised or challenged as we journey through life.  Then, it is at such moments when we have to answer the question of how much I love my neighbor as I love myself.

Well, today is a holiday weekend.  How will you spend it?  Maybe you might be driving down some road and you become the person suddenly in need of a little assistance.  That’s a moment when you want someone to come along with enough love to give you a hand…or maybe it’s just the other way around.  Or, maybe you’re going to spend this holiday weekend relaxing at home.  Why not take a little time to make a review of all that this commandment means to you.

Enjoy September!

Fr. Walt