Scripture Readings: Exodus 22.20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10; Matthew 22.34-40
“Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?” – Matthew 22.36
Love God and neighbor without distinction. This is the distilled version of the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the religious community to which I belong. The mission calls us to act—to love and form relationships. It makes love of God inseparable from loving people in our lives—indistinguishable. The words “without distinction” also call us to reach out to people without sorting who we like best or who is worthy but with openness. All are welcome: immigrants, GBLTQ, people in poverty and in wealth, in sickness and in vigor.
Our mission originated in 17th-century France, where 90% of the people lived in poverty and famine and plague devastated the country. A Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, worked with a small group of women who experienced God “seizing” them to respond to their neighbors’ needs. They divided the city and began doing all of which they were capable for and with their neighbors.
Actually our mission originates far earlier. It is Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question in Sunday’s gospel, “What is the greatest commandment?” What is basic is the verb love, a call into relationships and community. In answer, Jesus quotes two commandments long on Israel’s books: Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. Seldom have people in our country and our world needed to live these commandments more than now, to make love of neighbor our firm foundation across all that divides us.
Who have you seen exploited? For whom are you feeling compassion? To what work of justice do these experiences call you?