A Legacy of Love

The Scripture readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary time can be summed up in one word: LOVE!  Not the kind of love we see on TV or in the movies– that sort of love seems to be so contrived and temporary.  The love we hear of today is much simpler and also much more demanding: It’s the total giving of our self in the love of God and of our neighbor.  That love is profoundly human, a love that is an image of God’s love for us.

Jesus did not ask us to love with half of our heart, a dash of our soul and part of our mind.  No, he commands us to “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…and your neighbor as yourself.”  That is the unselfish kind of love that is simple enough to talk about but so difficult to put into practice.  To truly love God and our neighbor always demands that we take a risk of giving of our inner most soul to someone else in order to love them as fully and completely as God loves us.

Rachel Beckwith was a child who understood that type of self-giving love.  She put all of herself into showing others what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.  At just 5 years old Rachel asked her mother if she could cut off her long hair and send it to “Locks of Love” to be made into wigs for cancer patients.  After her first haircut she vowed to grow her hair long again and donate it again so others might find some comfort in her gift –- and that’s just what she did.

At eight years old, while attending church, Rachel heard a missionary describe a poor village in Africa where the children of the village had no access to clean water.  She was troubled and saddened by the plight of those children.  So much so that she asked her Mom and Dad if she could skip holding her 9th birthday party and instead, ask her friends to donate $9 each to help bring clean water to the children of that African village. With her parents’ help, a website was set up with the hope of raising $300 in donations.  Rachel was very disappointed that she only raised $220.

Just one month after her 9th birthday Rachel was critically injured in a car accident.  Family, friends and members of her church showed their sympathy and support by donating to her clean water fund.  Unfortunately, Rachel fell into a coma and never regained consciousness.  She died three days after the accident.  As a final act of love, Rachel’s parents once again donated her hair to “Locks of Love.”

We often underestimate what can be accomplished when we act out of love that is centered on the needs of others. Shortly after her death, the local newspaper in her community ran a story about Rachel entitled “Rachel’s Last Fundraiser.” That story was picked up by the NY Times and read by people from around the world.  Then something wonderful began to happen. The clean-water fund started by Rachel began receiving additional donations. Most were for $9, some were for more. When the fund that was started with a goal of raising $300 was finally closed this past summer, it had received over 63,000 donations totaling over $1,266,000.

Rachel Beckwith’s legacy is the loving manifestation of today’s Gospel imperative to love your neighbor as yourself.  A love that is shared completely and unselfishly — a love so simple even a child could understand it — is exactly what Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel.

Rachel, in her selfless generosity, models the great love and compassion of God who gave us his only Son in loving us. The whole law and the prophets, Jesus tells us, depend on this love:  Not a selective love, but a love that is compassionate to the poor and less fortunate; a love that shelters and protects the needy; a love that places love of neighbor alongside love of God!

This Sunday was World Mission Sunday, a day when we are called as Christians to assist in spreading Jesus’ Gospel message of Love throughout the world. After all, that’s what missionaries do!  And by virtue of our baptism you and I are missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As St. Paul tells us, “We have become imitators of the Lord, receiving the word with joy…so that we may be models for all…believers.”

Rachel Beckwith, at the tender age of 9, was a missionary in her own right.  She let her actions proclaim her love and, in doing so, revealed the love of God to tens of thousands of people she would never know.  She truly was a model of Our Lord’s Gospel for all  elievers.

As you begin your week take a moment to think about how being loved by another person has enriched your life.  Then ask yourself: How have I shared my love to enrich the life of someone else.

Be a missionary and model to others in spreading the Good News of our Lord’s Gospel throughout the world.

All it takes…is love!

Blessings to you and your family,

Deacon Mark