14 March 2006

The Widow and the Orphan

Isaiah's exhortation, in today's first reading, is a call to honor those who are neglected. The widow, having no husband, and the orphan, having no parents, would have been summarily dismissed by society at the time the prophet was writing. We may have more opportunities for orphans and widows in our society today, but the command to comfort and listen to those who are neglected is still as salient -- and necessary -- today as it was in Isaiah's time.

We may dismiss someone because he or she makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps we have a colleague at work whom we avoid or someone in our family with whom we prefer not to visit. Sometimes we don't even know a person and we feel a sense of discomfort; perhaps there is someone asking for spare change along our daily walk to the bus or the train and it is easy to drop a dollar in the cup but hard to say, "Good morning." When we put aside our own sense of "comfort" and say "Good morning" as we drop a dollar in the cup, we give much more than our spare change. We give honor. We acknowledge the person as worthy of our greeting and our kindness. That is truly the prophet's message to us today: honor those who are dishonored.

This message -- of loving our neighbor -- prepares our hearts for the Gospel command to love our enemy.

"For the commandment to love the neighbor also includes the love of enemies. O God! What a disproportion between the objects of these two loves, and yet these two commandments are alike to such a degree that the one cannot exist without the other."
St. Francis de Sales

No comments: