HOMILY FOR THE 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A.
THEME: LOVE IS A COMMAND
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
The Apostle John was the only apostle who did not die as a martyr. He was exiled to the island of Patmos and died of old age. It was there that he wrote the fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation. While he was already very old, his disciples would carry him to Church every Sunday. During the Mass, he would say to the people: “My dear children: love one another.” This is his one and the same message. After some time, one disciple asked him, “Master, why do you always say the same thing: Love another?” St. John answered, “Because it is the command of the Lord. And if this is only followed, it will be enough.”
When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replied: Love. Love God, and love your neighbor. It is the greatest because “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” That is why St. John said: “If this is only followed, it will be enough.” Curiously, however, we may ask: How can love be commanded? Isn’t love something spontaneous and voluntary? If one is commanded to love, it cannot be love anymore.
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This question comes from people who believe that love is only a feeling or emotion. Indeed, love comes with an intense and ineffable feeling that one practically “falls” in love. But those feelings very soon dissipate and disappear. When that happens, people believe that love is gone; love is dead. It is time to look for another. This is what makes this world so sad and unstable.
When love is treated as a mere passing fancy or emotion, human relationships also become the victim of man’s fickleness and whims.
Fortunately, love does not die; it is something eternal. St. John said: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1Jn 4:7). So, if God is love, and God is eternal, love must also be eternal; it is meant to last forever. The reason why people think that love can die is because they think of it as only an emotion or feeling. It is true that feeling is involved in love, but not always. Love goes beyond feelings; rather, it is an act of the will, a decision to give oneself totally and freely for the good of the other. Love is the person’s decision of total self-giving. God showed this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (Jn 3:16).
The enemy of love, therefore, is not anger or hatred, but selfishness. When one refuses to give himself, he cannot love. Selfish persons are the loneliest persons in the world for they will never discover the beauty and greatness of love. Since love is a decision, therefore, it can be commanded. God gave us this command because He was the first one to practice it. He loved us, and even gave us His own Son, even though we were still his enemies because of our sins. And so He commanded us: “Love one another as I have loved you.” And since love is a command, it has to be done. One author said, “The problem with the world is that many people consider love as a noun.” Love is not just a subject of discussion or study. Rather, love is an action word; it has to be done. St. John said: “Children, let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.” (1Jn 3:18).
Our life as Christians is like a cross, with the vertical post and a horizontal beam. Without the vertical post, the horizontal beam cannot exist. The vertical dimension is love of God. It is the first and greatest commandment. It demands everything from us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22:37).
Love of God is the origin and the basis of the love of neighbors. Without love of God, love of neighbor is meaningless and empty. In fact, the reason why we love our neighbors is because we love God. A neighbor may be unlovable, or may even be an enemy. But because we love God, we are committed to love him.
The horizontal beam is love of neighbors. It is the concrete expression of our love of God. Without the beam, the post will remain empty and meaningless. St. John said: “If anyone says ‘I love God’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1Jn 4:20-21). Hence, we should be able to see Jesus in our fellowmen: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40). Seeing Jesus in others makes it possible for us to love others, even our enemies.
Let me tell you a story. There was a famous monastery long time ago. The monks truly loved each other. And people were attracted to them. As a result, there were many vocations. As time went by, the monks began to be selfish and ambitious; they would be envious of one another and would quarrel often. Gradually the people were disappointed and drifted away from them. The monastery lost many vocations; it was dying. The abbot was alarmed by the situation. So he went to see a holy man in the desert, a hermit. The holy man gave him just one advice: “I will tell you a secret. But I will say this to you only once. You will say it to your brothers, but only once. Under no circumstance will it be repeated by anyone. This is the secret: ‘The Messiah is among you.’”
The abbot went back to the monastery. He gathered all the monks and told them: “The Messiah is among you.” The monks were surprised, but soon after, they began to think: who is the Messiah among us? My goodness! It could be the one I quarreled with yesterday. Or it must be the cook, or the librarian, or the janitor. Very soon, the atmosphere in the monastery changed as each monk treated each one as the possible Messiah. They started loving each other again; kind words and deeds overflowed, and the whole community became a living image of love. The people noticed this and were drawn back to the monastery. The monastery became alive and vibrant once again. (Adapted from storiesforpreaching.com).
Jesus gave us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” As Christians, we have to imitate Jesus in our love for one another. Thus will the world know we are Christians: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35).
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