Synopsis: OT XXX (A) Sunday Homily
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is the greatest commandment in the Bible, namely to love God and express that love in action by loving Him living in our neighbor.
Scripture lessons: The first reading from Exodus explains the second greatest commandment, namely, loving one’s neighbors, especially the underprivileged. The chosen people of Israel should remember that once they were aliens in the land of Egypt. Just as God protected them and treated them kindly, so they are to protect others and treat them with kindness. Thus, they should become a humane society rooted in the basic religious concept of loving God living in their neighbor. In the second reading, St. Paul congratulates the Thessalonians on the positive effects of their example of loving one another as Jesus had commanded them to do. Their mutual love and their loving reception of Paul and response to his preaching bolstered the Faith of Christians elsewhere who heard about them.
In the Gospel today, Jesus combines the commandment to love God with the commandment to love one’s neighbor and gives the result as one Commandment of supreme importance in Christian life. Jesus underlines the principle that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves because as God’s children both of us bear God’s image, and to honor God’s image is to honor Him. Love for our neighbor is a matter, not of feelings, but of deeds by which we share with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us.
Life messages: 1) We need to love God: Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, means that we should place God’s will ahead of ours, seek the Lord’s will in all things and make it paramount in our lives. There are several means by which we can express our love for God and our gratitude to Him for His blessings, acknowledging our total dependence on Him. We must keep God’s Commandments, and offer daily prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition. We also need to read and meditate on His word in the Bible, and accept His invitation to join Him in the Mass and other liturgical functions.
2) We need to love our neighbor: God’s will is that we should love everyone, seeing Him in our neighbor. Since every human being is the child of God and the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, we are actually giving expression to our love of God by loving our neighbor as Jesus loves him or her. This means we need to help, support, encourage, forgive, and pray for everyone without discrimination based on color, race, religion, gender, age wealth or social status. Forgiveness, too, is vital. We love others by refusing to hold a grudge for a wrong done to us. Even a rebuke can be an act of love, if it is done with the right heart. We also express love through encouragement and by helping others to grow. We express agápe love in meeting the needs of others by using the talents and blessings that God has given us, by comforting each other, by teaching each other and by sharing the Gospel, in deeds and in words.
OT 30 [A] : Ex 22:20-26; I Thes 1:5c-10; Mt 22:34-40
Anecdote #1: The inspiring five-word sermon: There is a legend handed down from the early Church about John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. Of the twelve original apostles, only John lived to a ripe old age. In his later years, not only his body but also his eyesight and his mind began to fail him. Eventually, according to the legend, John’s mind had deteriorated to the point that he could only speak five words, one sentence which he would repeat over and over. You can imagine the high regard in which the early Church must have held the last surviving apostle of Jesus. The legend says that every Lord’s Day, John would be carried into the midst of the congregation that had assembled for worship in the Church at Ephesus, where John spent the last years of his life. Total silence would fall over the congregation, even though they already knew what John was going to say. Then the old man would speak the words, “My children, love one another.” Over and over, he would repeat them until he grew tired from talking, and no one yawned or looked at his watch or gazed off into space absentmindedly. They listened as John preached his five-word sermon over and over: “My children, love one another.”
#2: “Christians love one another.” In the second century AD, a non-Christian named Aristides wrote to the Emperor Hadrian about the Christians. He said “Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If one of them has something, he gives freely to those who have nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are as happy as though he were a real brother. They don’t consider themselves brothers in the usual sense, but brothers through the Spirit, in God. And if they hear that one of them is in jail or persecuted for professing the name of their Redeemer, they give him all he needs. This is really a new kind of person. There is something Divine in them.” No wonder the non-Christians of the first century used tell one another, “See how those Christians love one another.”
#3: Love them anyway: In Calcutta, India, there is a children’s home named Shishu Bhavan (Children’s Home), founded by Mother Teresa. The home continues to be operated by her community, the Missionaries of Charity. On the wall of the home hangs a sign which reads:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
LOVE THEM ANYWAY
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives,
DO GOOD ANYWAY
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies,
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow,
DO GOOD ANYWAY
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight,
People really need help but may attack you if you help them,
HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth,
GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY