By Father Patrick Longalong
Several years ago, I visited my brother in the Philippines and stayed at his friary.
It was a very active place; people came and went throughout the day. I saw many donations of items that were given for the poor, especially those living out on the streets. I knew they were doing outreach to the poorest of the poor, but I never fully understood what it meant until I heard many stories from his confreres.
Many times, my brother, along with the other Franciscans in his house, would go out to bring supplies of food and essential items to the poor. He told me that there was an area they frequently visited that many people avoided because of the dangerous reputation it had.
The other brothers added that even the local parish priests could not enter that neighborhood. I asked how they were able to move about freely. My brother said it was their religious habit that became their credential to the locals.
When people saw their Franciscan habit, people knew they were there to give them assistance. The community made sure they were safe to do their outreach and works of mercy. It was not just material things that they brought with them.
They gave them God’s presence and hope that everything will be alright. The hope they were able to give these people the inspiration to thrive and be better.
Jesus in today’s Gospel gave us an important commandment to “love one another, as [he] has loved [us].”
It is the definition of “as I have loved you” that is essential to the meaning of the type of love we should have for each other. Jesus’ love leads to sacrifice.
Our love for each other therefore is not only when it is convenient. There are times when we have to go that extra mile to meet people where they are because they could not get there on their own.
This type of love is the identity we are asked to live and be identified by. Often in our Church, we use the word charity interchangeably with the word love.
Our unselfish love towards each other is a manifestation of the reciprocal love between God and us. This is why I have great respect for the work that Catholic Charities does in our diocese. Not many people know the tremendous scope of the outreach they give to our neighborhoods.
They cannot completely eradicate poverty and suffering in our community, but they can help alleviate much of the burden carried by our sisters and brothers. Their mission clearly expresses the mandate of our Lord this weekend.
“Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens translates the Gospel of Jesus Christ into action by affirming the dignity and value of every person, especially the most vulnerable members of our diverse society.
“Catholic Charities develops effective responses to human need and joins with all people of good will in advocating for a social order that promotes justice and embraces human development.”
Let us be identified as faithful Christian Catholics in our works of charity.
If we continue to be vigilant in this, we might be able to join John in the second reading in witnessing “a new heaven and a new earth […] where God’s dwelling is with the human race.”
Readings for Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.