October 23, 2011
Readings for The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Ex 22:20-26; 1Thes 1:15:c-10; Mt 22:34-40
Today's Gospel again has Jesus being challenged by the Pharisees; however, His response was not one that would have been very difficult for the people of His day to accept. For the first part of the answer He quoted the book of Deuteronomy "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." (6:5) All Jewish scholars would have agreed with Jesus that these words are at the heart of the Law of God. What Jesus did that was revolutionary was to combine this quote with a quote from the book of Leviticus, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (19:18) and say, "The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt
If we were asked if we love God, all of us would respond with a resounding YES! This is not a difficult question. It is not difficult to love God. God is perfect and has given us all things. Even if we feel that God has not done right by us we know that the failure is not on the part of God, but our understanding of God's will. St. Augustine says, “Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.” This is not as easy as it sounds. People are not perfect, even people we love can annoy us at times. People at times can be rude, mean and obnoxious. They treat us with contempt, they hold grudges towards us, and they plot against our backs. Simply, people are very frustrating! As much as we say that we love God, it is more difficult to love those around us
with all their human weaknesses.
Why do we love people? In his letter St. John puts it the best, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 Jn 4:10-11) We love because we have been loved first and if we are going to be like God, we must learn how to love one another. And the love of God is very real and personal. God does not love us from afar. He gave us His only Son who died on a Cross for us and who is present for us in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist at every Mass. We have a God who has given His whole heart, soul and mind for us and who calls us to love others as He has loved us.
If our faith consisted of nothing more than coming to church to thank God for all that we have received, it would be very easy. Yet even when we are at Mass we are called to think of one another. The first thing we do after the homily is to pray for the needs of the world and those in our community who are hurting the most. Before we receive the Eucharist, we turn towards those around us to offer the "sign of peace." This is a prayer where we are not just greeting those around us, but truly saying that we are at peace with everyone; that we hold no animosity with anyone before we approach the altar of God. Finally, we are sent forth from the Mass to share the love that we have received. Blessed Mother Theresa in her book, "Love A Fruit Always in Season" (available in our bookstore), tells the story of a young couple who brought her a substantial sum of money. Surprised she asked where it came from, they responded, "Two days ago we got married, and before marriage we decide we will buy no wedding clothes, we will have no wedding feast. We will give you the money. We love each other so much that we wanted to share the joy of loving with the people you serve, and we experience the joy of loving."
When we recognize how much we really have been loved despite our own brokenness, it is much easier for us to love others. We love, because we have been loved; because God has loved us, and because those around us love us even when we ourselves are obnoxious. One final quote from Blessed Mother Theresa, “Where does love begin? At home...Make your house, your family, another Nazareth where love, peace, joy and unity reign, for love begins at home. You must start there and make your home the center of burning love. You must be the hope of eternal happiness to your wife, your husband, your child, to your grandfather, grandmother, to whoever is connected with you."
Today, let us recommit to not only love God with all our heart, soul and mind, but to truly seek to love one another as we have been loved by God. This is more challenging, but it is in loving others we become true followers of Christ.
Father John Provenza
“ You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your
heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”