As I prepared today’s homily it dawned on me how much the human race has not changed since the time Jesus walked the earth. We still have non-believers and hypocrites that doubt the saving Words of the Lord. We see in constant news feeds and social media, that many people are more concerned with their own ideologies rather than loving God our creator and loving the people in their midst.
Why? Because these people have forgotten the two greatest commandments – “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The scholar of the law in today’s Gospel passage was yet another one of the leaders that wanted to expose Jesus as a fake and be rid of him. His address of “teacher” shows that he is not a true disciple of Jesus and wants to create doubt among the followers of Jesus.
“Jesus faced a parade of leaders trying to trap him instead of asking how they could better care for the people surrounding him. Their very actions showed how blind they were to what it really meant to love God or their neighbor. Of course, we shouldn’t single them out as especially evil or misguided. We can all point to times when we have overlooked opportunities to love, even when they are staring us in the face.
Part of the reason is that we may have a narrow definition of Jesus’ command to love. We might tend to reduce loving God to attending Mass or getting our prayer times in – walled-off situations that are limited in time and not very demanding. As for loving our neighbor, we can fall into the trap of deciding for ourselves who our “neighbor” is. Maybe it’s our spouse but not the coworker who rubs us the wrong way. Maybe it’s our sibling but not the in-law who is always offering their advice, whether we want it or not.
Jesus came to expose the indifference that lies at the heart of our failures to love. But he didn’t stop there. He also overcame it as only he could: by pouring himself out in love for us.” Word Among Us
We have the two greatest commandments that Jesus left us. We have the example of Jesus’ love for us – His death on the Cross for our sins. We have the example of the many saints of the ages. So why does it seem so hard for us to live out these two greatest commandments? One could say that it is the result of pride – caring more about oneself instead of God’s will.
“God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us. God puts us first in his thoughts and concerns. God loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding goodness and kindness towards us. The love of God comes first and the love of neighbor is firmly grounded in the love of God. The more we know of God's love, truth, and goodness, the more we love what he loves and reject whatever is hateful and contrary to his will. God commands us to love him first above all else - his love orients and directs our thoughts, intentions, and actions to what is wholly good and pleasing to him. He wants us to love him personally, wholeheartedly, and without any reservation or compromise.
Love is the gift of giving oneself for the good of others – it is wholly “other” oriented and directed to the welfare and benefit of others. Love which is rooted in pleasing oneself is self-centered and possessive – it is a selfish love that takes from others rather than gives to others. It is a stunted and disordered love which leads to many hurtful and sinful desires - such as jealousy, greed, envy, and lust. The root of all sin is disordered love and pride which is fundamentally putting oneself above God and our neighbor – it is loving and serving self rather than God and neighbor. True love, which is wholly directed and oriented to what is good rather than evil, is rooted in God's truth and moral goodness.
God loves us wholly, completely, and perfect for our sake – there is no limit, no holding back, no compromising on his part. His love is not subject to changing moods or circumstances. When God gives, he gives generously, abundantly, freely, and without setting conditions to the gift of his love. His love does not waver but is firm, consistent, and constant. He loves us in our weakness - in our fallen and sinful condition. That is why the Father sent his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to redeem us from slavery to sin and its disordered cravings, desires, passions, and addictions. God the Father always seeks us out to draw us to his throne of mercy and help. God the Father corrects and disciplines us in love to free us from the error of our wrong ways of thinking and choosing what is harmful and evil rather than choosing what is good and wholesome for us.
How can we possibly love God above all else and obey his commandments willingly and joyfully, and how can we love our neighbor and willingly lay down our lives for their sake? Paul the Apostle tells us that "hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us". We do not earn God's love – it is freely given to those who open their heart to God and who freely accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Lord Jesus to flood your heart with his love through the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Laudate
I recently read Matthew Kelly’s new book, “I heard God Laugh”. This book is about how essential prayer is in our lives and by deepening the way we pray – we will be better able to hear God. So it goes to say, if we’re better able to hear God then in-turn we can love God and love our neighbor.
The following is the epilogue from Kelly’s book:
“Do you hear that?
It is the laughter of Rachel, Esther, Delilah, and Ruth;
It is David and Solomon laughing from deep in their bellies;
It is Jesus and his disciples laughing on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem;
It is Joseph laughing for joy when he discovered the Golden nature of his dreams.
That sound you hear, it’s the laughter of your unborn child;
It’s your great-great-granddaughter laughing a hundred years from now;
It’s your own unrestrained and unedited laugh set free for all to hear.
It is the laugh of 107 billion people, the laugh of forty thousand years, the laugh of eternity.
Listen carefully to life and closely to your heart, and you will hear God laugh.
Sing with him, dance with him, laugh with him, cry with him, and love with him.
Everything is better with him!”
Quite often as I prepare and pray about my homily, I think that the message is more for the people who are not in the pews – some of you might even be thinking the same thing. It’s more about what we do with the message once we leave Mass today.
Prayer is the most powerful tool against the hate and anger that is so rampant in our world today. Maybe it’s that simple – maybe each of us can make a commitment to pray each day to love God and love our neighbor. And through each of us radiating love and prayers, we can begin to see our society return to a culture of love for God and love for each other.
This past Thursday we celebrated the life of Pope St John Paul II, so I would like to end with a quote from him “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty which you are so attracted; it is he who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise”