He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor.” (The Book of Luke)
Many years ago my daughter asked me to take her and a friend to a Christian Night Club in Minneapolis for a Battle of the Bands. She preferred I give her space and find something else to do instead of hanging around the club. I grabbed my book and found a comfortable place to read.
It was a crowded summer night on Block E and I sat in “solitude”. I began reading the Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila for the first time and in the words of Bob Dylan:
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off every page
Like it was written in my soul . . .
Periodically I would break from my book and watch people. A homeless man sat near me. He held his sign hoping for a little money. I find it interesting how we respond to these signs. Some take the “get a job” attitude and hold the sign-holders in contempt. Others avoid guilt by avoiding eye contact. Some “know better” than to give money, because, they say, it will only go to booze. A few give restaurant gift cards so the person can get something to eat. Most tune-out because it is a common occurrence.
I saw three young men coming down the street. The trailer of the group stopped his friends. He looked at the homeless man, pulled out his wallet, took out a couple a bills, folded them in half, and held the money out. The homeless man reached for the bills, but the young man withdrew the money and said, “Are you going to buy beer with it?” The homeless man nodded yes. The young man unfolded the money and put it back in his wallet: “Why don’t you come with us — we’ll get you a good beer.” The homeless man leapt to his feet and followed the three young men to the bar. I wondered: How did this young man know the homeless man’s problem was not alcohol, but loneliness?
I returned to the Interior Castle and began reading:
But here the Lord asks only two things of us: love for His majesty and love for our neighbor. It is for these two virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing His will and so shall be united with Him. . . .
The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbor; for we cannot be sure if we are loving God . . . but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter Three)