In the Gospel of Matthew, a scribe asks Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus responds by saying, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (36-40).”
The story of the Good Samaritan always sticks out to me when I read the above verses. A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds with a statement similar to the verses stated above. The lawyer doesn’t quite like that answer so he presses further and asks “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:29). Jesus shares the story of a man who was robbed, stripped, beaten, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite walked right past the man, yet, the Samaritan man bandaged his wounds, took care of him, and brought him to a safe place to stay. (Lk 10:25-37). This is significant because Jews and Samaritans were enemies, yet the Samaritan still stopped to take care of the man.
Most of the time I get the first of Jesus’ commandments right. I devote my time to daily prayer, Mass as often as I can throughout the week, weekly adoration, and whatever other devotions I can squeeze in. Sometimes, I get stuck in the mindset that this is what makes you a “good Catholic” and that is enough. Complacency is a trap that is easy to fall into.
The reality is, though, that we need to be like the Good Samaritan too. Our faith is not just about me and Jesus "doing our thing." This is an important part of it though! That is why Jesus says it is the greatest commandment! However, we must allow our love for the Lord to permeate our entire being. We must embrace the second greatest commandment and truly let our desire to please God pour out into every aspect of our lives.
I work full time, have a toddler, and am in my third trimester with baby number two. Needless to say, I have my hands full. I sometimes think of these as excuses or inhibitions for not being able to love my neighbor the way I think I should be. I do not have time to volunteer at the local food pantry. I cannot help rake leaves to raise money for church charities because I can hardly stand without losing my breath. I cannot be a part of any of the volunteer groups I want to be in because the meetings and events interfere with dinner and bedtime. (Have you ever been around a hungry toddler? You do not mess with their schedule!)
Some days, if I think about this too long, I feel defeated. How can I make a difference? How can I preach the Gospel if I can’t live it myself? Those are the lies the enemy wants us to believe. He wants to make us feel small so that we quit trying to be who God created us to be. Instead of dwelling on those negatives, I should think about what I can do. I can pray for those ministries I would like to be a part of. I can donate food or money to the food pantry. I can text a friend to check in on how she is doing, but most importantly, I can serve my family. Serving my husband and children with love, humility, and joy is how I can love the Lord above all else and love my neighbor as myself. They should be my top priority. They are the people I encounter daily and I have endless opportunities to show them the love they deserve. I can do the dishes with humility instead of annoyance or hostility. I can console my toddler at 4 am with compassion and tenderness instead of fatigue and frustration. We are always called to serve the "other," but depending on our phase in life, it could mean focusing our service on our family, the domestic Church, instead of the wider community.
Before you dwell on what you cannot do for others, think about what you can do. Be attentive to how God is calling you to not only create and foster divine intimacy with Him but how He is asking you to use that love in service to the other. Who has God put in your path? Where are the needs in your community? What tugs at your heart? What is attainable for you? Remember to give at least 1% of your day, 15 minutes, to prayer, but during that time, ask God to reveal to you who you can serve that day. Ask Him to inconvenience you and put someone in your path that you can help. I promise you that He will provide! Even if you do not “hear” anything or notice any specific promptings throughout your day, you always have your family to love, honor, respect, and serve daily.
Emily Rogers is a wife and mother of 2 boys. She has an MA in Catechetics and Evangelization from Franciscan University of Steubenville and is beginning her 4th year as a campus minister at Eastern Illinois University. When she's not at the Newman Center she can be found puttering around her neighborhood pushing the jogging stroller, sipping coffee, or working on her new podcast called Here I am. Send me! which shares stories of how people have said yes to God. Visit her website: emannrogers.com to find out more about her podcast and blog.