Homily for XXX (30) Sunday Year A. 25-10-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Exodus 22:20-26
Psalm: Psalm 17 (18):2-4, 47, 51
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40
The Lord spoke to Moses in today’s first reading giving him a set of laws that would develop into the heart of the first code of law laid down for Israel even before they arrived the Promised Land. The underlying principle of these laws entailed helping anyone who is in need especially the weak and most vulnerable. However, with the evolution and development of the Jewish culture, their legal system also advanced itself into the Law of Moses with ritual requirements. Dedicated specifically to the strict observance of the law were the Pharisees who prided themselves in the knowledge of these laws and all the required rituals, making it a life-time project to study the 613 precepts of the Torah. This comprised the books of the Old Testament containing the Law of Moses along with the rabbinic writings of legal scholars. All of these put together was a robust legal resource monopolized by this exclusive club of the Pharisees. And having been plotting for Jesus so that they could trap Him, they decided to test His knowledge of the law to trap Him. Jesus responds to them in the gospel reading by summarizing the whole of the law in two great commandments found in Deuteronomy 6:5 – “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might,” and Leviticus 19:18 “you shall love your neighbour as yourself.” He knew they came with malice and were setting a trap for Him, but He responded with love teaching them the truth. This is to teach us that evil can only be overcome by good.
Jesus’ response is a teaching that reflects the truth affirmed by scripture in 1 John 3:1, 4:7-8, 16, that God is love and everything He does flows from His love for us. He puts us first in His thoughts and concerns by loving us first (1 John 4:19), and our love for Him is only a response to His exceeding goodness and kindness towards us. Can we also love like God who puts us first? Yes we can, if we are ready to humble ourselves and learn from Him.
The topic of love is generally interesting and highly debatable nowadays that almost everything and anything at all can pass for love. With no seeming consensus today, love is construed differently ranging from mutual intimacy involving feelings of emotional closeness and physical connectedness, to unrestrained liberty to do whatever we want with our bodies and even decide that certain lives be terminated in the name of euthanasia, as an act of showing love to the suffering. However, the truth is true love as shown us by God is outward looking, directing all that He does, seeking only what is good, beneficial, and lifegiving, rather than what is destructive, evil or deadly. Therefore, the more we know of God’s love, truth, and goodness, the more we love what He loves and reject whatever is detestable and contrary to His will. His command to love Him first above all else is to orient and direct our thoughts and intentions, words and actions to what is wholly good and pleasing to Him. To achieve this, He gives us our neighbour, the persons around us, and in our lives, they become like mirrors through which we can see and touch God. He is not interested in gigantic deeds that can attract marvels, but He is interested in the amount of love we put into every deed done for our neighbour no matter how little. So, if we truly love Him, it will show in the manner in which we relate with our neighbour who is the image and likeness of God. Ask yourself, how do I treat my neighbour? Do I treat my neighbour as a human being created in the image of God or as an object for self-gratification to be used and discarded? Maybe it is your domestic staff; nanny, gardener, cook, driver, night watchman, gate keeper, e.t.c.
Through our neighbour we have the opportunity of experiencing and expressing the nature of true love in the act of giving ourselves for the good of others without seeking anything in return. In such love we are wholly oriented and directed to the welfare and benefit of others. What detracts us from loving is sin. And the root of sin is disordered love and pride which is fundamentally an attempt to put myself above God and my neighbour – it is loving and serving myself self rather than God and my neighbour.
Today this has led us to the culture of indifferentism rising in the world, there is perversion and so much hate and bloodshed in different parts of the world. Sin abounds everywhere in the world because God’s love is lacking in us. We have suffocated that love of God in us so much so that we can no longer see our neighbours especially those who suffer. When we open our eyes we see only ourselves and our plans, pleasures, wealth, power and authority. And because of this, even our neighbour has become just but a means for us to attaining those banal ends. That is why today there are people who kill others just to attain political heights, promotions or to get rich. Such people have chased that love of God away from their lives. If we are such, unless we repent from such ills, God’s love can never be in our lives and in our world of today. How can we have this love of God in us? St. Paul in his letter to the Romans 5:5 says that ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.’ We do not earn it; it is a gift freely given to us but we have to make ourselves ready to receive it by opening up our hearts to it. And once we open our hearts we can only make it grow in us through faith and trust in God and hope in His promises. It is then that we can have the courage to say like the psalmist, ‘I love you, Lord, my strength.’ May the good Lord touch our hearts today to be moved with loving compassion for the suffering and the most vulnerable members of society who are living on the margins especially immigrants, women, children and the unborn. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.