“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” These words spoken by Servant of God Dorothy Day hit hard.

The more time we spend in the “real world” in the midst of all of those whose opinions we loathe, the more we realize what it is to be a Christian.

Jesus went out of his way to eat and work with scandalous people. “Why,” people would constantly ask the disciples, “does your leader do this?” Jesus wanted to be around scoundrels and money launderers. Someone with his sterling reputation and solid upbringing would generally have no point of intersection with some of the lowlifes with whom he chose to fraternize.

Look at your life. Would others describe you as a “churchy” type? Many of us cradle Catholics feel safe (and perhaps saved) because we attend Sunday Mass, give to the Church, and maybe even attend a prayer group or Bible study or two. But, in our downtime, do we look for people who are “in need of a physician”? Do we pass people off as being unreachable either because of their annoying habit of finding fault with everything or because they are too poor for our comfort level or too rich for us to stomach? Do we avoid people who confuse us or challenge our white-knuckle values?

Perhaps one of the most startling things to happen to a Christian is to hear oneself talk to someone else about what it is to be a Christian. The strangeness that results from the dissonance between Christian ideals and our own personal reality is off-putting. This is why chatter never goes very far; nor does theorizing or positing solutions for the world’s problems.

As Venerable Fulton Sheen so succinctly put it: “The only argument the world will listen to now is the argument of personal holiness. It has heard all the rest and rejected them.”

Legalism and white-knuckled righteousness were alive and well in Jesus’ time, yet there were still many who chose their own ways. Many knew what they had to do to “win favour” with God, but why weren’t they doing it? Enter Jesus, to save the “lost sheep of Israel.”

Who are today’s lost sheep?

The alternative to following Jesus’ example of active, reaching charity towards our neighbour is ... not following Jesus’ example. What is a Christian who does not do as Christ does? It is painful to consider …

On a purely natural level, something wonderful happens when we begin to make connections outside our comfort level: the differences which were initially glaring become at first tolerable and later a means to a deeper love for the other.

When someone in pain feels as though another human person is trying to listen to them, the operative word being “trying,” their pain is lessened.

If one person can listen to another, this is the beginning of mystical love. This love is hard to understand, yet the power of love destroys the searing agony of dualistic thinking and eventually destroys death itself.