Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Psalm 19:8-10, 15
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In the first reading in Leviticus, the law of Moses talks about loving our neighbor as ourselves. We can understand the simple empathy that reasons, if we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can easily see how we should not behave. We don’t want to be lied to, cheated, lied about, gossiped about, or have anyone treat us in a particular way because of our social status or wealth. It is impossible to deal with people who bear us a grudge and extremely painful to have family members hate you. We can understand that those behaviors are harmful because we can relate to how it feels when it happens to us. Beyond that, we can see how these behaviors are wrong in God’s eyes because He is holy and wants his children to be holy.
In the Gospel, we have the new standard. We are not merely urged to refrain from hurting others by our behavior, we are told how to be merciful and giving. We are asked to look outside of ourselves to see the need that others have and meet it. This too is empathy. If I am hungry, I want someone to give me food. If I am thirsty, I want someone to give me a drink. If I am lonely, sick, hurting, unable to help myself, that is when I need more from others. Because I suffer these things, I become conscious of more than just myself. To love my neighbor as myself is to be empowered to do things that will relieve him. This defines my relationship with God. I cannot say I love God if I do not extend myself in mercy to everyone I meet.
Because we can know by looking at ourselves how often we are in need of help, hospitality, and kindness, we can also see the need in others. Therefore, if we have been victims of lies, theft, hate, gossip, bias, anger or vengeance, we have an arsenal of empathy with which we can determine not to perpetuate the cycle by responding in a similar way. We will refuse to give in to those things. We overcome to bring healing and bless others. The more we have been starved, the more we can save the starving. The more injustice we have endured, the more we can perform works of justice. The more isolation we have borne, the more we know to reach out to the lonely. In this way, we exercise the power of God. It is our protection against the powers of darkness that would drag us away from God and away from heaven. It is the only way to find true happiness and have the upper hand against the evil that is in the world.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to do your work in the world and take care of you by ministering to others. Help me to be aware of the people around me who may need me today. May I become more sensitive to their trials and pains and reach out to them in friendship. Help me to be your ambassador and to see you hidden in every human person. After I have done my part, help me to leave them in your hands by praying and surrendering them to you. Amen