by Vince Eimer
We all remember the story of the good Samaritan.
But I am not so sure any of us have heard it with the same kind of force it had when first told.
The love a Jew would have had for a Samaritan would have been like the love a Ku Klux Klansman would have for an African-American. There is a real bite to this story for a society in which almost everyone saw Samaritans as impure inferiors to be avoided, a group hated and despised for many centuries.
We are commanded to love our neighbor and told in this story that neighbor means everybody. There are no exceptions. But is this even possible? Our faith teaches us that not only is it possible, it is expected. Talk about great expectations! Good news, though. There is a school we all attend that can teach us how to love in this seemingly impossible way.
This school is free. It is in your neighborhood. The faculty, staff and students are all the same people. This school is your family and friends. We do not learn what love is and how to love in an abstraction that includes all of humanity.
We learn it in the midst of living our lives with the people we are closest to, the ones God gave us as family and the ones we chose as friends.
What are the lessons in this school? The first lesson is to have a friendship with Jesus, who is always within us. We love this best of friends by trying to be like him. We learn who he is whenever we read the Gospels and see again what he does and says. He is our true role model. He gives us his all so that we can realize his life within us. He even loves those who do not love him. Remember how he asked the Father to forgive his torturers at the crucifixion? That is the level of love he calls us to.
The second lesson is to take what we learn about love from Jesus and be that way with our families and friends. We place the needs of those we love before our own. We work hard to develop the virtues so we can be consistently patient, kind and generous. We start to see that the key to true love lies not in our feelings, which change as the winds blow, but in making the effort to always do what is beneficial for others.
Once we have become a person who habitually loves family and friends in this way, we will naturally find ourselves behaving in a similar way to whoever we meet because now Christ is living within us.