Loving your neighbor is not just an option

Father Ludwig was a fine preacher and an excellent writer. Recently I came across a pithy meditation he wrote some years ago. It is well worth re-reading. Please say a prayer in his memory. GPH✠

The other day a friend of mine used the term “paying it forward”? which brought immediately to mind the phrase “ random acts of kindness”. Both are euphemisms for earning merits by impulsively doing good to your fellow men.

On the face of it, this appears to be a noble ideal. Giving aid or alms to the person at the bus stop, or outside the grocery store, or perhaps to what we used to call bums (but are now called “the homeless”) is a good thing. Who can argue that helping some- one in need is wrong?

The problem with “paying it forward” or “random acts of kindness” is that in these efforts we remove a very important participant. His name is God. Just as dangerous is the implied pat on the back that one using these phrases feels he should receive.

Every Sunday we hear the Summary of the law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment” (Here lies the rub!) And the second is like, namely this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”?.

This is where the problem with “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness” lies. We are commanded by God to love him and our neighbor. The phrases “paying it forward” and “random acts of kind- ness” excise God from the equation. It becomes our largess that helps the poor guy on the corner and not the overwhelming commandment of God. In doing it in this fashion we also imply “?Look what a nice thing I’ve done, I didn’t have to, but I did”.

In this we really brush God aside. We become the masters of our fate and that of our fellow man. We are commanded by God to do good to our fellow man. This isn’t suggestion or a hint, it is a commandment given to us by God himself in the Christ. It is an obligation, not an option.

As well, the doing of good for our fellow man is no cause for celebration. It is our duty.

To pat oneself on the back for canned goods to the poor or a dollar to the “bum” on the corner is to forget God. It is he that made our alms possible in the first place.

Finally, to love, to help, to give alms, (or the occasional buck), to someone less well off than ourselves, brings us full circle in that Summary of the Law, because to love our fellow man, “even the least of these my brethren,”? (Matthew 25:40) is to love God himself. RHL✠

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