Mission priest stresses 'love of neighbor'
By Terry Dickson
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.- One of the great commandments given by Jesus was “Love your neighbor.”

However, as Redemptorist Father Vic Karls told St. Alphonsus parishioners during a Feb. 6 parish mission talk, that’s not always an easy commandment to follow.

But, Father Karls added, “The Lord God gave us that great commandment and he taught us how to put that into practice in our life.”

Father Karls outlined three ways, prescribed by Jesus that will make it easier to follow this commandment

Mindful that people don’t always make it easy to love them, Father Karls said that, just as Jesus made an excuse for the people who put him to death – “Father forgive them for they know what they are doing” – human beings should also make excuses for their neighbor when he or she is being difficult to love.

“Many times, they don’t want to hurt you. They don’t mean to hurt you. It just slips out. They simply don’t know,” he said.

Father Karls said it is also important to pray for your neighbor and to perform good works for that person.

“But you know what I hear so often? I hear people say that ‘they are the ones that did the mean thing. They are the ones who have to come and apologize,’” Father Karls said.

“Jesus said something about that. He said, look, if you want peace in your life, it’s got to start some place. You can spend an entire lifetime looking out and saying, ‘It’s their fault.’ And your relationship is going to be strained for your entire life. Jesus said, if you want to live in peace, it’s got to start somewhere. It’s got to start right here. You’ve got to be the one. I don’t care if it was their fault. I don’t care if it wasn’t anybody’s fault. If you want to live in peace, you’re the one who’s going to have to start.”

To drive home his point, Father Karls led the congregation in singing Let There Be Peace on Earth,” the first line of which reads, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Sometimes, Father Karls said, loving one’s neighbor requires what he terms “tough love.”

“Sometimes in following what our Lord God told us to do – the steps to help us love our neighbor – sickness and abuse comes into the picture and we have to go into something called tough love,” he said.

“That is simply to stop helping other people in their abusive behavior. Tough love, real love is to do your best to get them to some professional help. They are addicted. They don’t have the ability to do it themselves. People who love them have the ability to help them.”

The mission, which featured morning and evening sessions, ran Feb.7 through Feb.10.

Printed with permission from the Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.

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