Last week I mentioned the admonition to “love your neighbor.” This Sunday, we heard the same from Mark’s account of the Good News. It was ironic that my family heard the Gospel proclaimed in our old parish in Delaware, especially with one of our old neighbors sitting behind us.
We love those neighbors. Our children grew up together and it was nice to see them again and reconnect. But my thoughts during the Gospel were not on the people behind us.
When we first moved into our home back in 2005, we met our next door neighbors. On one side was a state trooper, his wife the teacher, and their two children. Before we moved, we had been to their parties, watched their children grow up, and stood on the sidewalk in front of our houses talking for hours.
Then there was the other side.
A few months after moving in, we arrived home one day to find that those neighbors had installed sod in their yard. How nice.
Then I noticed the hose they were using to water their new lawn. It looked a lot like ours. Upon further study, I realized it was our hose…and it was still connected to our house.
We never really talked much to those neighbors after that. They had a dog that never shut up, hosted parties until all hours, parked anywhere they wished, and let their yard grow and grow and grow. And did I mention the dog?
It was to those neighbors that my mind wandered as I was sitting at Mass yesterday.
When I think of that reading – or the command in general – I also hear the voice of a priest friend, who, when reflecting on that reading at Mass years ago, said what I was thinking: “Like many of you…when I hear that instruction, I think, ‘Nice advice, God, but have you met my neighbors?’”
Loving our neighbors is tough. People are annoying. They don’t listen to our great advice. They overlook our gifts. They ignore us.
Still, I swear there are days that I think I can actually hear God telling me, “You know that ‘love your neighbor’ thing?”
“I meant that.”
So this week, I will remember that things are different. It’s a new day, a new beginning. It’s a day like no other in a week like no other in a place like no other. Sure, it all looks and sounds familiar, but this hasn’t happened before. This time. This place.
This week, I will love my neighbor. I will not take things so personally. I will remember that not everything is about me. I will forgive more easily. People will still be annoying, but I will remember that I am people too. So this week, I will remind myself that if God loves everyone, everyone is lovable.
As the great Dorothy Day said, “We only love God as much as the person we love the least.”
So, this week, love like God…and get yourself out of the way.