Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2020
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 41 segundos
What Does Love of God and Neighbour Mean?
Today’s Gospel reading is very timely. It questions our understanding of love. What do we mean when we say we love God, our neighbour and ourselves? Take the situation in Nigeria for instance, does love of neighbour demand we care for the military that are shooting at us? Imagine a mother, a father who just lost his or her child to the reckless shooting of SARS, does the Gospel reading require them to love the offender? How about couples in same sex unions, are we to love them, care for them? Are they our neighbour? Can we sit with them at Mass?
These seem to be the questions Jesus is asking us today. When the Pharisees came to Him with a question to disconcert Him, Jesus gave an answer that was a paradigm shift. He shifted their understanding of the Law from obligation to love. As Henry Wansbrough puts it, Jesus told them to ‘Love’, not ‘obey’ or ‘adore’ or ‘fear’ or ‘reverence’. Love is not merely the warmth of companionship or of affection but is the willing generosity of a wife to an alcoholic husband or husband to a paralysed wife, seeking no reward for oneself but the happiness of the receiver.
So Christ is taking the conversation on the Law to a whole new level. He is asking for the purpose of the Law. Why did God give us the commandments? His answer in the Gospel indicates that the commandments are to help us to love God by having only one God. Soren Kierkegaard qualifies what it means by having one God. For him, it means our whole life must be about God. We must love Him as Jesus said with our whole heart, that is we must desire God, desire what He desires. And what God desires is that we should all live together as family.
God desires that we love one another. He desires that we treat those who are different than us with the same love that He, God treats them. Repeatedly, Jesus said, I have come not to condemn the world, but to save it. In another passage, He said, I came for the sick, not the healthy, for sinners not the righteous. Still in Luke 7: 43-47 when Simon the Pharisee tried to call His attention to the sins of the woman, Jesus said to Simon, ‘Simon can you see this woman.’ In other words, can you see the person? Can you stop looking at her actions, her sins?
Perhaps for too long, we Catholics have been focusing more on the actions of those who do not agree with us, those whose lifestyle is different to ours. And as such, we have not taken the time to see them as persons like us, to go through the trouble of knowing them. Maybe we know too much about them that we simply do not care to know them. We cannot be bothered to love them. Interestingly, in all the Gospels according to Fr James Keenan SJ, Jesus saw sin as our failure to love – to actively seek the good of the other, solely for their own happiness.
In this sense, to love your neighbour goes deeper than the Golden Rule. For the Golden Rule can easily leave us in a kind of ‘mutual selfishness’. We love others simply because we want to be loved as we are loving them. Jesus wants us to love others because they are persons. We may not like them. We may not agree with what they do, how they live their lives, etc. but none of these things should stop us from loving them. In the words of Saint John Paul 11, our response to every human being regardless of who they are, or what they do – should be love.
The Love is our origin. Love is our calling. Love is our destiny, the old Preface for Mass for Matrimony has it. That is, to live is to love. And we stop living when we stop loving. The reason we stop loving according to Saint Theresa of Calcutta is that we start judging others, labelling them, and condemning them. This is what Christ is confronting today. Why is it that we cannot sit with those different than us at Mass? Because we have judged them. We see their actions. They are too bad to be part of Christ Body. But we forget that Christ died for them.
Early this year, Leila Geagea Abdallah, lost Anthony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna Abdallah, 9, to an alleged drunk driver. This is what she said, ‘The guy, I know he was (allegedly) drunk, driving on this street. Right now, I can’t hate him. I don’t want to see him, (but) I don’t hate him… I think in my heart, I forgive him… I’m not going to hate him, because that’s not who we are.’ We are people who love, who forgive and who accept others. Perhaps Leila’s story can help us will the good of all who have wronged us in many ways. For when we love we live.
Fr Francis Afu