By: Fr. Johnbosco Obika

1st: Ex 22:21-27
2nd: 1 Thes 1:5-10
3rd: Matt 22:34-40


HOMILY: Last Sunday the Pharisees and the Herodians formed an ally against Jesus and put a question about whether to pay tax or not to Caesar in order entrap him. Jesus turned this trap into an opportunity to teach them about one’s duty towards God and the state. Today, another question was put to Jesus by a lawyer again to disconcert him. He rather turns this trap into a pulpit to teach them about the most important of all the commandments which was neglected. At Mount Sinai God gave Moses 10 commandments. The Pharisees and scribes split them into 613 precepts. Jesus summarized them in one word–LOVE (Love God and love your neighbour as yourself)

Jesus did not only tell us to love God, he teaches us how to truly love God. 1. With all our heart. The heart is the most profound and most personal part of the human person. It is the core of intimacy. To love God is to enter into a personal relationship with him. 2. With all our soul. The soul is the seat of life and human desire. To love God we must constantly desire him the source of all life, human and divine. The psalmist in psalm 42 paints a good picture of a soul that yearns for God: “As the deer yearns for flowing streams, so do I yearn for you, my God…” To love God we must have active longing for him, for holiness, for righteousness. Those who have this desire burning in their soul shall be satisfied as Jesus promised in the beatitude (Matt. 5:6). 3. With all our mind. The mind is the intellectual center of the human person. It is the seat of human thought, will and reason. To love God with our entire mind is to study and understand the truth of God revealed in the scriptures and to make decision arising from the will to do good. The more we know of God’s transcendental attributes (love, truth, goodness, etc) the more we love what he loves, and abhor what he abhors. 4. With all our strength. The strength here represents the physical element of man. To love God with all our strength means to gathered every energy in us and put them into practical good actions. God wants us to love him with our entire being and to take our focus away from the self, the world, the flesh, possessions. It requires personal relationship with God which is deepened through communication in prayer (we talk to God) and through his word (God talks to us).

Love of God is inseparable from the love of neighbour. So far, there are many signs, at least visible signs, that we love God. We go to church, we receive communion, we say our daily prayers, we make donations in the church, we try to avoid sin, name them. However, even without a close to look at the rate of wickedness, selfishness, uncharitable attitudes in our society today, we know that there is a dividing line between the God we do not see and the neighbour we see. Because we are made in the image and likeness of God and each of us bear this image in no small measure (Gen. 1:26-27), and he who truly wishes to love God must love him in the neighbour. If we must love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, it follows we must love our neighbours who bear his image in like manner: with the heart to feel their pain, the soul to be moved with sympathy, the mind to think out the solution to their plight and the strength to move into positive action.

In the first reading , God shows the Israelites how to love him in their neighbours. Of course the traditional concept of “the neighbour” among the Israelites included only fellow Israelites, the Covenantal people. But God broadened their neighborhood to include strangers (Jesus in the story of the good Samaritan buttresses this point). God takes the Israelites down the memory lane back to their days in the land of Egypt where they were strangers. They were like debtors, widows and orphans in a foreign land but God saved them. We easily disconnect our memory from the past, forgetting how we were. We forget easily that we were nobody but God made us somebody, we were like orphans but God fathered us. Calling these to mind should inspire us to love more those who are under privileged in the society
and widen our boundaries of neighbourhood.

St. Paul commended the Christians of Thessalonica in the first reading for their personal relationship with God, having abandoned their old ways and idols. This relationship with God was practical. They helped each other in the community. So, if we love God we must do something for God in our neighbours. We don’t need to look far, they are close to us. HAPPY SUNDAY!

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