August 25, 2019

The summary of our parish mission is stenciled on the glass in the narthex of the Church: Love God, Love Our Neighbor, Make Disciples. Those words encapsulate what we are called to as a parish community. It is how we live out our baptismal call as a faith community.

During the coming pastoral year, both at our school and in our wider parish, we will reflect on what it means to love our neighbor. This command comes from the Book of Leviticus (19:18), and was part of Jesus’ answer to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” (Mark 12:28-35; Luke 10:25-28; Matthew 22:34-40)

Jesus’ answer put together this command from the Book of Leviticus and the command from the Book of Deuteronomy: “The first is this…’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).

In putting these two commands together, Jesus made clear that there could be no love of God without love of neighbor. This command grounds all of the outreach ministry we do in our parish and in the wider Catholic Church. This command to love our neighbor is what grounds Catholic Social Teaching and our long tradition of caring for the most vulnerable among us.

A few weeks ago (July 14, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time), we heard Luke’s version of this question put to Jesus. If you recall, after Jesus answered, a scholar of the law wanted to know more. He wanted to know “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable Jesus illustrates that our neighbor is anyone who is in need.

Over the coming year we will have an opportunity to reflect on who our neighbors are and what actions we can take to assist those who are in need. Already in place, both in our school and in the wider parish, are many annual opportunities to reach out to those in need.

The Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelter, the Giving Tree (through our St. Vincent de Paul society), the Penny Drive (at our school), Coats for Kids (through our Knights of Columbus), the Toy Drive (through our school) and Project Homeless Connect are just a few of the ways we serve our neighbors in need throughout the year.

In addition, we contribute financial resources in special collections to support the work of organizations like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Community Services, and the Holy Father’s outreach to those in need throughout the world through the Peter’s Pence Collection. The funds collected for these efforts all contribute to the lifting up of those who are our neighbors, both near and far.

This year we will continue supporting all these efforts as well deepening our relationships with our neighbors who live beyond our borders through pilgrimages to our Sister Parish in Kenya and to our friends in Franco Bido’ and Santiago in the Dominican Republic.

We also “love our neighbor as ourselves” when we advocate on behalf of those neighbors of ours who live on the margins. Through the Washington State Catholic Conference and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we give voice to the needs and rights of unborn children, immigrants and refugees, people who are homeless, and many others whose voice is often not heard.

When we gather as a parish community for our Convocation (September 9, 5:30-9:00 pm, and September 15, 12:30-4:00 pm), we will reflect on love of neighbor as one of the fundamental charisms of parish life at St. Joseph.

Thank you for all the ways you show love of neighbor in your own personal lives, and as parishioners at St. Joseph. May God continue to draw us deeper into love of Him and our neighbor.

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni