Column: What if Jesus really meant our neighbor neighbor?

Father Andrew Strobl is the archdiocesan director of evangelization.
Father Andrew Strobl is the archdiocesan director of evangelization.

by Father Andrew Strobl

I don’t know my neighbors. I have lived in the rectory at Holy Name Parish for almost two years and I’ve never met or talked to my immediate neighbors.

I have never knocked on my own neighbors’ doors to say, “Hi, I’m your neighbor. What’s your name?” I’m also not alone.

It wasn’t always this way. I remember a time when I knew everyone who lived around me. We would even get together and hang out — which was easy to do since our family had a He-Man swing set with an amazing Battle Cat you could ride.

We even had block parties and were the keepers of each other’s spare keys. Over the years, though, after many moves and many excuses, getting to know my neighbors has become less and less of a priority.

John Leyendecker, a School of Faith instructor, shared with me that his family came to the same awareness before they moved from Colorado to Kansas.

He and his wife dared to ask, “What if when Jesus said to love your neighbor, he meant your neighbor neighbor?”

Putting away all of the excuses, their family made a real effort in the last few months of living in their neighborhood to get to know their neighbors.

When they moved out, they had people — who had been strangers  not long before — crying as their family drove away.

This past Lent, our parish did a number of discussion sessions on Matthew Kelly’s book, “Rediscover Jesus.” During one of the sessions, I brought up my concern about the seemingly common phenomenon where our neighbors are also strangers.

A couple weeks after that session, I got an email from a member of our group. She said that the discussion about neighbors got her to act. She put away all the excuses and knocked on a woman’s door that she had lived next to for nine years without formally meeting. With a food dish in hand to share, she knocked on the door and introduced herself.

She told me that her greatest fear was being asked, “You have lived next door for nine years. Why all of a sudden you now pay me a visit?”

Her fears were put at ease as they had a very pleasant exchange. When she discovered that her neighbor was Catholic, she invited her to the upcoming Stations of the Cross that Friday at Holy Name.

To her surprise, her neighbor was already going because she was a member of Holy Name! They talked about their faith and are now going to meet to dive deeper into sacred Scripture together.

I pray I can have that same boldness in reaching out and meeting my neighbor neighbors.

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