SUNDAY 31ST WEEK YEAR B
The central message of today’s readings is the most fundamental principle of all religions, especially Christianity. God Himself tells us that we are created to love God in loving others and to love others in loving God. In other words, we are to love God living in others.
The first reading reminds us to love God by keeping His commandments. It also describes the blessings reserved for those who obey the commandments. The second reading tells us how Jesus, the eternal and holy High Priest, offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross to demonstrate God’s love for us. Today’s Gospel teaches us how we should return this love by loving others.
We are commanded (1) to love God, (2) to love our neighbor, and (3) to love ourselves. We are to love God, for it is in loving Him that we are brought to the perfection of His image in us. We are to love our neighbor and ourselves as well, because both of us bear God’s image, and to honor God’s image is to honor Him who made it. We are to love our neighbor and our self as a way to love God: God gives us our neighbors to love so that we may learn to love Him. It means sharing with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us. This is the love for neighbor that God commands in His law.
Loving with all of one’s heart is a truly radical challenge, in imitation of Christ. But it is our Christian vocation. For we believe that life comes from death, that gain comes from loss, that receiving comes from giving, and that Jesus himself had to die to come to the fullness of life. We profess to be followers of one who made a complete offering of himself to the Father and spent his energies and his time in the service of others, who returned to his Father devoid of any earthly goods.
If I am going to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, then I have to place His will ahead of mine. This means that I may have to say no to some things that I might want to do. It also means that I am going to have to seek the Lord’s will and make it paramount in my life. Taken together, loving God means we open our hearts, give Him our will, develop our minds, direct our emotions, use our bodies and deploy our resources in ways that reveal our love for Him in active, loving service of everyone we encounter in our lives.
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 and us. This means we have to help, support, encourage, forgive, and pray for everyone without discrimination based on color, race, gender, age wealth or social status. If I am going to love my neighbor as I love myself, it will cost me as well! I may have to seek forgiveness when I think I have done no wrong. I may have to sacrifice something I think I need to meet a brother’s need. I may have to give up time to help someone. I may have to spend time in prayer for people, go to them, and reach out to them in the name of the Lord. Love for our neighbor is a matter of deeds, not feelings.
Nicole Oyola, a 23-year old from Clearwater, told Fox 13 that she suddenly pulled to the side of the Howard-Franklin Bridge outside of Tampa on Thursday when she spotted a man on its edge. “I started talking to him. I told him, you’re worth it. You’re enough,” Oyola said. “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I love you and God loves you and everything is going to be okay.”
He looked at me, and after he looked at me he started crying and I said, “I just want to give you a hug”. So he came to the other side and I gave him a hug. “God has a purpose for everyone”, she added “I believe in that, so I stopped. I just wanted to help him feel better.
This is what Jesus is asking from you and me today. Love God and love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor doesn’t mean we have to give lot of money or our material possessions. But a kind word to the one who is depressed, sad, disappointed, distressed and feel confused will bring transformation in that person’s life. In this incident, the woman didn’t give any money to that man but she shared with him what God has given her the great gift of LOVE. When she said those words, there was a total change and transformation in that man’s life. His attitude was changed, there was change of decision and there was a change his outlook toward life. So let us also do the same to our needy brothers and sisters. Amen.