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Random Acts of Love

Last year, a neighboring parish sponsored a retreat given by a Franciscan friar. On the first night of the retreat, Father Kevin spoke of God’s love for us and then gave us a homework assignment: to carry out one “random act of love” before the next session. It didn’t seem like a difficult task since husbands and wives perform countless acts of love every day. Everything we do for our family is an act of love, everything from reading bedtime stories to cooking, cleaning, or taking out the garbage. 

Luke 14:13-14 gives us some insight into Jesus’ definition of an act of love. “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I decided that in order to complete the retreat assignment as Jesus would, I had to do something unnoticed, not expecting any thanks for my effort. I would love to tell you that I made some grand and glorious sacrifice, though actually, it was just a small gesture of helpfulness for a neighbor who wasn’t home. It was a simple act of love, but knowing that only God was watching made me smile.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, we know there will be many opportunities for hospitality and random acts of love in our homes, our parishes and our communities. We look forward to spending time with relatives and friends, but Jesus also wants us to reach out in love to feed the hungry and welcome the stranger. In Matthew 25:34-35, Jesus described the final judgment in this way: “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'” In verse 40 the king says, “you did it for me.”

Sometimes, a familiar reading like this one, leads me to an unexpected moment of clarity and grace in which I know that Jesus is speaking directly to me. So, then I ask myself: What does He want me to understand about that homework assignment, about that one “random act of love”? Was it more than just neighborliness? “Yes.” It was actually done for Him? “Yes, it was.” And everyday acts of thoughtfulness, faithfulness, and service, they all are done for Him, too? “Yes, every single one of them.” And should I add acts of patience, compassion, generosity, and kindness to that list? “Absolutely!” Okay, I get that. So, what am I missing? “Perhaps, it’s the word random.” Love isn’t random. Faithfulness isn’t random; and neither is compassion or thoughtfulness or generosity.

Jesus’ message is pretty clear: if we choose these virtues as the lens through which we view our relationship with others, then our acts of love will no longer be just random. They will actually define our lives! A friend recently told me that she believes any intentional act of love done for family, neighbor or stranger is love of God personified. And that’s what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

From random to intentional, one moment of clarity and grace can make a huge difference.


1 thought on “Random Acts of Love

  1. If everyone tried to do that, there would be less wars in the world

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