Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary time A 2014
For those of you who have used or still using Nokia phones, you might remember that every time you switch it on, you’ll see its slogan ‘Connecting people.’ I really took this slogan quite seriously when I got my first mobile phone. I established contacts and made more friends. And of course even if I don’t have any important thing to say to my friends, I still tried to make them know I remember them by sending them quotes of any kind, good ones basically.
I liked sending love quotes, especially to those whom I was trying to impress.
I’ll share some with you.
‘Love is like a rosary full of mystery.’
‘Love is like a Rubix Cube, there are countless numbers of wrong twists and turns, but when you get it right, it looks perfect no matter what way you look at it.’
‘Don’t fall for someone who won’t be there to catch you.’
It’s amazing how many definitions and descriptions we have about ‘love’. It’s no surprise because as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI observes: ‘Today, the term ‘love’ has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings.’
Love indeed, can be defined, expressed and described in many ways.
Jesus in the gospel today (Mt 22:34-40) would describe love, particularly love of God and love of neighbour as we love ourselves as the greatest motivation, the force behind and the summary of all the commandments of the Law and of the Prophets.
Jesus in here answered the question posed by the Pharisees as to which of the commandments they have learned as a Jew is the greatest. The Jewish people were given 10 commandments by God through Moses. But perhaps for them, the commandments are so general and somehow vague that they’ve made particular and specific commandments or laws out of them. They came up with 613- 365 of which are prohibitions [the same as the numbers of days in a year] and 248 are ‘laws of direction’.
So obviously, it would really be confusing as to which of them has greater weight. They came to Jesus using this ‘confusion’ to set a trap for him, to find an evidence against him, to know if Jesus really takes all the commandments of Moses seriously which is an expectation of all the devout Jews.
But then again, and this is one reason why I love Jesus so much. Just as he loved us first before we could love him, he would catch us first before we could catch him. In the gospel he caught the malice of the Pharisees before they could catch him.
To sort out their ‘confusion’ Jesus reminded them of two things: First, the law is not the end in itself. It is only one way to God. Second, there is more to the law than what is being written- the spirit of the law- the motive behind the law, the deeper meaning of the law- that is ‘To love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.’ Here Jesus reveals to them the key to follow the commandments seriously and faithfully.
I hope Jesus would say this same thing to the extremists and the Jihadists creating havoc and terror in many parts of the world today. I hope Jesus would say to them and this is my prayer that they’d listen to God speaking: ‘If you really love your God and are doing his commandments, show it by your love of one another, not hate or murder, or persecute those who don’t share your faith and your sentiments.’
I hope, like St Paul, we would have the courage and the conviction to stand up and tell this extremists: “Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbours: that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.” (Romans 13:10).
I hope and pray they’d hear St James saying: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” (James 2:8)
But why do many people today fall short in loving God, more so in loving with our neighbours, and even fall short in loving ourselves?
One is that we make God in our image and likeness, when it should have been the other way around. This could also be applied to our relationships with other people.
God is love, and we are supposed to be mirrors of his love, created in his loving image and likeness. I was caught up with this too. Years ago, I entered a raffle promising P1 million pesos as the grand prize. I was really hoping and praying I’d win. I even tried to make a bargain with God. I promised I would help the Church, give some money to the poor and needy, etc. In other words I tried to control God. I tried to make God in my own image and likeness. Of course, I didn’t win, thanks be to God, otherwise, I would never have become a priest. Who would like to if you’re an instant millionaire?
Another reason is that we take God and others as a threat to our lifestyle, to our security, to our power. This is what happens to Jesus. His presence who is so loving, caring, understanding of the sinners, made the people who are supposed to be learned of the law, uneasy. So they tried to get rid of him.
This is evident in the Church today too. Pope Francis has been doing many wonderful things, very human way of doing things, soul-enriching yet very challenging to some leaders in the Church. Because what Pope Francis is doing opens up the eyes of the people and thus creating an expectation that ‘If the Pope could do that, why can’t we?’
Another reason why we fall short to loving God and our neighbour is that we are too comfortable with where we are and what we do, and not taking the risks to love. ‘Love is the greatest of all risks’ says Jean Vanier, the founder of L’arche community that was founded to help people with disabilities.
Of course, we can never love perfectly as human as we are. That’s why we still fall short in loving God and one another.
But this is not an excuse not to love at all.
Today we ask God, the God of love, to give us loving heart like his, a heart that loves by taking so much risk, a heart that beats for others and beats for the needs of others. We ask God to help us grow in love, and stay in love.
A way to grow in love is to keep these words of Mother Teresa in our minds and in our hearts. Mother Teresa said:
“At the end of our lives we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by: I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.
Hungry not only for bread— but hungry for love.
Naked not only for clothing—but naked of human dignity and respect.
Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks— but homeless because of rejection.
This is Christ in distressing disguise.”
Love is a thing that connects people. Jesus has shown us the way to love and he has commanded us to be loving ourselves. If we are serious of our Christian identity let’s love one another as Jesus loved us.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas est (On Christian Love) encyclical # 2
This is a very touching message. Loving as Christ does is indeed very challenging. The world has conditioned us to be the center of everything, thus we are constantly trying to measure up to the expectations of others. This blinds us to the reality that to love is to meet the needs of others, and in order to do that, we have to rise above our own challenges and personal agendas, sharing a part of us with others out of the abundance of our hearts.