30th Sun. in Ord. T Yr A – Oct. 28, 29, ’23 Love is a response to God, neighbor, and self b.k.
Readings: Ex 22:20–26 • Ps 18:2–3, 3–4, 47, 51 • 1 Thes 1:5c–10 • Mt 22:34–40
We are taught lessons early in life to shape us into socially upright people: Play nice with others. Tell the truth. Share. As we get older our behaviors can become more grave and the laws and commands we must follow get more affirmed and with greater consequences: do not kill; do not commit adultery, do not steal. To save us from the powers of sin, we must respond to the love of God in our lives. For Love is a response given or taken to another’s gift of love. The greatest commands, for which all others follow, is to love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.
St. John tells us God is love. We were created in God’s image and likeness and so we too are called to abide in his love. We abide in his love most directly in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass when we are in communion as Church. We can chose God and love him in every way. We can love with our heart: through compassion and hospitality to God’s people. We can love with our soul: by worshiping God and praying for our neighbors and ourselves. And we can love with our minds: by studying God’s Word, letting it enlighten us, and send us out in loving response to the world. Can you think of ways you express your love for God in your daily life? Indeed, as the Psalmist sings, I love you, O LORD, my strength, my salvation, my stronghold! When we love God, we are always, and at the same time, loving God’s people.
In our first reading from Exodus, Moses proclaims God’s commands to the Hebrew people. Their treatment of alien refugees, widows and orphans, and the poor must be without doing wrong to them. The cries of those who are wronged will be heard and God’s wrath shall bring justice, so, for heaven’s sake! love your neighbor.
Neighborly love is hard to envision in times of war such as with the Israel-Hamas war. Friend or foe, we must love our neighbor as a response to God’s love in us. St. John again says, “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. [For] If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?”. Another response is through prayer. St. Teresa of Calcutta says, “Prayer will give you a clean heart, and a clean heart will be able to see God. And if you see God in each other, you will love one another.” We pray for peace, reconciliation, and conversion for all our neighbors in this conflict. Consider the ways you respond to God’s love with your own love of neighbor. When we love God’s people, we are always, and at the same time, loving God.
In our Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus commands us to not only refrain from doing wrong to our neighbor but also love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That, of course, presumes that we actually do love ourselves. If we do not love ourselves, it will be impossible to love others as they ought to be loved. By “loving ourselves,” Jesus certainly does not mean being prideful and selfish, self-centered, and narcissistic. To love ourselves, we must first recognize who we are in the sight of God. We are icons of God who created us. As baptized Catholics, we are sons and daughters of our Father in heaven and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ! That is essentially who we are. That is our true identity and it is a precious and beautiful gift given to us.
Without a firm grasp and knowledge of who we are in relation to God, it is no wonder that so many people today experience a crisis of identity and seek to create their own identities. Thomas Kempis wrote, “…learn to see yourself as God sees you and not as you see yourself.” See on the altar how you are loved by Jesus in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Let him reveal to you who you truly are. Ask him to help you love yourself as he desires you to love yourself. Ponder this: how do you see yourself in relation to God? When we love ourselves the way we ought to, we are always, and at the same time, loving God and others.
Some people have a hard time understanding and accepting their adoption by a loving Father. They do not realize this relationship is based on love for God, others, and self. Maybe the sins of their past weigh heavily upon their soul and mind. Sometimes the wound is caused by another and sometimes it is due to our own sinfulness. These wounds, if not given the proper care and attention cause great spiritual harm.
There is, however, a cure. God sent his Son, the Divine Physician who is the cure of our spiritual wounds. If you are wounded by sin, go, receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. Be healed by the power of the Holy Spirit and enjoy the freedom and love meant for your life.
Heavenly Father, heal our spiritual wounds that keep us from loving you completely. May our response of love for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for our neighbor and ourselves. May we abide in your love and realize your presence in our daily lives. Help us to grow in compassion for each other, for peace in the world, and for the glory of God.