Radical community care is what Jesus has called us to do when he gave us his new commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we love our neighbor we step outside of ourselves and put on Christ. We have radically fulfilled the law Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans (13:10) because “love never wrongs the neighbor, hence love is the fulfillment of the law.”
When we love our neighbors as ourselves we bring Christ by bringing hope and joy to others. When we love our neighbors as ourselves we bring healing to those who are suffering. When we love our neighbors as ourselves we have become a channel for Christ’s presence to become real in our world. And when we love our neighbors as ourselves we are living out the same radical care in our communities as Jesus did. Now, because it’s radical, prepare yourself to scandalize others. Jesus did, and there’s no way around this, but if we follow Jesus we must therefore love like he did—some are just not going to get it, and some will not like it. Still, we must do our best to respond with the healing balm of charity.
In our own weakness, coupled with our sinfulness, it’s all too easy to want to exclude those that who we find repulsive or who cause us great discomfort—perhaps because of a horrific crime they committed or views that are extremely different from ours. Charity, however, must radiate out to all those around us and embrace all. This doesn’t mean we won’t respond differently given what our neighbor has done, or needs: charity will “take on different forms, according to the state in which our neighbor (and even ourselves) is to be found,” Blessed Columba Marmion tells us in Christ, The Life of the Soul. What our radical community care can’t be is simply one of theory or distance—only praying for the person and not also with the person when the circumstance allows.
Radical community care, as it reaches into the depths of our humans messiness, is scandalous, yes, but it’s opposite is violence, and violence, whether in thoughts or actions, ends and destroys, and we must refuse to be a part of that. Love, on the other hand, multiplies, restores, and renews. Love is willing to get dirty and “smell like the sheep” as Pope Francis says. Jesus never promised this would be easy but he commanded us to live out this radical attitude nonetheless because engaged charity is the only way to transform our world.
In our parish we have many ministries that are dedicated to community care but there is always more we can do. Our Holy Name of Jesus parish ministries continually ask what needs are there in the parish and community, and how can they be addressed. For example, recently it was determined a need for showers on Mondays for the folks who come to AJ’s Kitchen at Columbia. A mobile shower is now available from 9:30a-1:30p (volunteers are also needed—contact Rick or Kellie Ferguson, 909 362 2819, for more information).
Another area where we need to amp up our radical community care is in the area of mental health. The link below is to the pastoral letter, Hope and Healing, our California Bishops released May 1st—May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I encourage everyone to read it, especially if you or someone in your family suffers from any form of mental illness. Embracing and ministering to those with mental illness, as well as educating others, is an area where much improvements need to be made. This is an area where, unfortunately, all too often people suffer in silence due to lack of understanding on part of the broader community.
As I read their pastoral letter I could tell the Bishops really did their homework. This short letter (only 6 pages) will help you to understand what mental illness is and isn’t even as the bishops approach it from a pastoral, rather than a medical, standpoint. They mention so many things that I have come to learn on my own over the years and I’m glad to have this letter from our bishops, who also are not in the medical field, to back me as I continue to do more ministry in this area.
Our diocese, as well as the other dioceses in California, offers resources on our website for those who need direction on where to turn for treatment or are looking for further information. Mental health help is also a 24/7 phone call away—call 211 anytime to be directed to resources ranging from suicide hotlines to elder care or help with emergency needs such as getting food or paying utility bills.
Radical community care brings not only hope and healing to others, it brings peace and joy to our hearts. Put this into action and I know you will agree.