30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Today is the thirtieth Sunday of ordinary time. Today, the church reminds us of the most important theological virtue, love. In a most special way, Jesus gives us the two dimensions of love. The vertical, love of God, and the horizontal, love of neighbor. When these are perfectly lived, a Christian can conveniently say, I have lived well.
In the first reading of today, through Moses, God warns us: “You must not oppress the stranger or molest him…not be harsh with the widow or with orphans.” Of course, God reminds us that such acts would attract his wrath upon the oppressor. Therefore, the lesson here is that we must treat others justly and with love. God hates oppression and injustice especially, against the weak, the poor and the defenseless.
In the second reading, Paul reminds the Thessalonians community of their former status as pagans, and how they were liberated through the power of the good news. Their liberation was a sign of God’s love for them. Their acceptance of the good news was equally a sign of their love for God. Thus, Paul praised their effort and encouraged them to endure in love until the coming of the Lord.
In the gospel the Pharisees want to know from Jesus what is the greatest commandment of the law. At that time, among the Jews, there was much discussion on this subject. It was a contentious issue. Also, today, many people want to know what it is that defines a person as a good Christian. Some say that this consists of being baptized, praying, and going to Mass on Sundays. Others say that it consists of practicing justice and living brotherhood. Everyone has their own opinion. For you, what is the most important thing in religion and in the life of the Church?
A close look at Jesus’ response today, reveals that Jesus presents us with, first the vertical dimension of love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul….” It is important to note that to love God with one’s body and soul requires a lot of sacrifice, and humility. To love God is the most important perquisite of being like him. The common factor between these two things is charity – the love of God and of the neighbor. Charity was, and is, in the mind and heart of Jesus, the virtue of all virtues. We have been called to love our God the way we love our neighbor, and we have also been called to love our neighbor as we love God.
Why do we love God? The reason why that we love God is God himself … Why do we love each other in charity? Surely it is because we are made in the image and likeness of God … as all people have the same dignity, we also love them as we love each other to ourselves, that is, in their condition of holiness and of being living images of divinity. The love of God and the love of neighbor are not two different experiences but rather they are two expressions of the same reality, two sides, as if they were of the same coin. In charity we find the place where the love of God, the love of ourselves, the love of others meets. How do we share this multifaceted love with everyone we meet every day?
The second dimension of love is the horizontal: “You must love your neighbor as yourself?” This is more difficult than the first. This is because, we neglect and take it for granted. This is, by thinking that we can love God alone without loving our neighbors.
Hence, St John reminds us that: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn 4, 20). So, the best way of expressing our love for God is through our neighbors. We must affect others positively to love God well.
Therefore, in talking of love, charity must begin at home, with your neighbor, with your friends and those around you. Saint Augustine admonishes us; “…Love and do whatever you will. Whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love you must spare. Let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.” This is right because, it is through our neighbors that we worship and love God. When we find God, we find our own peace and love.
Finally, those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well, must help others to live well too. The value of one’s life is measured by the lives it touched positively. So, with the psalmist, let us proclaim: “I love you Lord, my strength.”
A venerable Catholic spiritual practice can help us with this. It is called a daily examination of conscience. At the end of the day, we can ask ourselves two questions. The first is “where was God with me today?” And we can let that question evoke thanksgiving for God’s daily presence in so many ways — in Scripture, in other people, in providential events. The second question is “where was I not with God today?” And we can let that question honestly test whether what we did and said that day was rooted in love of God and love of neighbor, or not.
“Do you love yourself; do you respect yourself; do you forgive yourself?”
“We have to build love from ourselves, with effort …”
“God’s love sets the soul free” Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN