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Jesus’ model of how to love provides much-needed guide

I learned the term "tikkun olum" while reading recent Omaha World-Herald stories about Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, who retired in May after nearly three decades serving as senior rabbi at Omaha’s Temple Israel. This concept was central to the ministry of Rabbi Azriel, who was greatly admired for his caring presence, his leadership in building inter-faith relationships and his commitment to justice in our community.

A Hebrew phrase, tikkun olum means to repair the world. And, oh my, does our world need some mending. These days it seems difficult to turn our eyes and ears away from the anger and violence that is working diligently to be the norm. It is nearly impossible to hide from the latest account of the evils man afflicts upon man.

I have to fight my own imagination that sees the sign-up sheet to join this destructive lifestyle getting longer every day and those perpetuating it getting louder. Yet for as much as we want to fall into despair, we know there is an answer and that answer is love.

Every day, I pray that those who are on the verge of acting out of anger and malice will know that they are loved; that they will know that someone, somewhere loves them; that they will know that God loves them.

I pray that this realization will hold the hand of the person reeling in addiction and fury who is about to lash out on a spouse or child; that this will redirect the lonely teenager away from the temptation of gang life; that this will temper the fear-invoking rhetoric we hear from too many; and that it will soften the heart of the wrathful soul ready to kill in the name of vengeance.

These are worthy prayers, I know. Yet I also know that people need this love face-to-face. Pope Francis consistently encourages us to build a culture of encounter, where we meet people wherever they are on their journey and walk with them to the face of Jesus.

I am humbled and inspired often by those who hear the call and respond in such profound ways, such as Rabbi Azriel, who led his congregation to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters after the 9/11 attacks; or friends who are preparing to welcome and care for refugee children in their home; and another friend who plans to spend her retirement years serving in north Omaha. This is the encounter that Pope Francis describes. An encounter where we journey with, not judge; where we listen and not admonish; and where we offer love and not perpetuate fear.

This is the foundation of our faith, and Jesus is the ultimate model of that love. As we continue in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is calling us to repair the world. By encountering the poor, the abandoned, the lonely, our angry, hurting and frightened brothers and sisters, we can build hopeful hearts, theirs and ours, by being the healing face of love.

 

Shannan Brommer is director of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Contact her at smbrommer@archomaha.org.

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