HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
TOPIC: TRUE LOVE
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mt. 22:34-40 – The Greatest Commandment
Message # 330: “Mother of the Eucharist” (begin on letter t)
1. The Marian Message
a) The Eucharist is the sacrament of Love. In this most sublime sacrament, God shows how much He loves us in Jesus Christ. And through the Eucharist, we also express our supreme love of God. In her message, the Blessed Mother revealed that she is the Mother of the Eucharist, but she is sorrowful (letter t). Instead of her children being gathered together in front of Jesus in the Eucharist in “unceasing hymn of adoration and praise” (letter u), “today, Jesus in the tabernacle is surrounded by much emptiness, much neglect and much ingratitude” (letter v).
b) “Emptiness” – “brought about by you, priests who often go about uselessly, going after things which are less important and more secondary and forgetting that the center of your priestly day should be here, before the tabernacle, where Jesus is present and is kept especially for you” (letter x).
c) “Indifference”- many people who “enter church for liturgical functions are not aware of His divine and real presence” in the tabernacle (letter y). “What causes deep bitterness to my motherly heart is the way in which Jesus, present in the tabernacle, is treated in many churches, where He is placed in a little corner, as though He were some object or other to be made use of” (letter z).
d) “Sacrileges” – “how many communions are made and how many sacrileges perpetrated! It can be said that there is no longer any Eucharistic celebration where sacrilegious communions are not made” (letter A).
e) Mary is the sorrowful Mother of the Eucharist because of the emptiness, indifference and sacrileges against Jesus in the Eucharist. The sacrament of love is not loved as it should be. The first of the greatest commandment – love God – is not being fulfilled by many of her children, even by many priests. This is something to think about.
2. Some Basic Information
a) Commandments: God gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. This is the Ten Commandments. However, there were many other precepts given by God to Moses, which are contained in the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch or the Torah (The Law) to the Jews. Added to these are the many precepts, 613 of them, promulgated by the Pharisees, the chief priests and elders of the people through the years which are called rabbinical traditions. For an ordinary Jew, just to memorize these precepts is already difficult to do. And the Pharisees are always watching for any violation and are quick to judge and condemn based on the external observance of the law.
b) Love: Love has different categories: eros, philia, agape. Eros is the love between couples, particularly in marriage. It is conjugal and carnal love. It is the love that is called forth by the attractive qualities of the object or person who is loved. It rejects the unattractive. Philia is the love of friends, parents and brothers/sisters. It is parental or brotherly love, or friendship. Agape is not used very often in classical Greek, where it refers to the noblest and highest form of love. It is a dignified term referring to that which is beyond price. It is the love that does not seek any reward. Agape is the love shown equally to the good and the bad, the beautiful and repulsive, the useful and the useless. This agape is what is referred to when we say that, “Love is blind”. But in the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek, the most common word used for love is agape. It is the unconditional love of God for us sinners, that He gave us His own Son Jesus for our salvation: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”
In Hebrew, the word used most often as an expression of covenant-love (the love between God and His people, which is the common thread of the Old Testament) is hesed. This word has a wide range of meaning: mercy, loving-kindness, goodness, piety, solidarity and steadfast love. It is an attitude of devotion and commitment that is without end.
Nowadays, there is so much confusion about the word love. It is used to describe a wide range of feelings, attitudes and preferences. It is used to describe a fondness for a certain food or object (“I love this car”, “I love my dog”, “I love my hair”, “I love lechon”), passion for a hobby or ambition (“I love to watch TV”, I love basketball”), sexual desire (“Let us make love”) and of course, the noblest concept of selfless commitment to another person or to God.
c) God is beyond the grasp of our knowledge and intellect. Yet if we want to describe Him, there is only one word that can do justice to the true concept of God: Love. Love is the defining personal characteristic of God, and St. John expressed this in his First Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Based on this truth, we can gradually understand the unity and Trinity of God. Love, according to our own experience, always unites (example is the married couple, two distinct beings becoming one because of love). So it is not anymore difficult to understand why the three distinct Divine Persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are only One God.
From this we also can understand the meaning of creation. Love is not an inward movement; it is always outward, directed to the other. When a man and woman are in love, their tendency is to unite, and that unity is expressed in sexual intimacies, which bring forth offspring. The love of God does the same: the whole of creation is the fruit of the overflowing love of God.
d) “Iniibig Kita” and “Minamahal Kita”. For us Filipinos, these are two expressions of love; they mean the same thing. Yet if we closely examine the meaning of the words, there is a big difference. “Iniibig” comes from the root word “ibig”, which is synonymous with “gusto” or “like”. It could simply be translated into “I like you”. Nevertheless, since we do not use it to mean things other than love, this expression “Iniibig kita” has become a solemn expression of love. We prefer to use the word “gusto” rather than “iniibig” in referring to an object other than a person. We rather say “Gusto ko ang lechon” than “Iniibig ko ang lechon”.
On the other hand, the expression “Minamahal kita” may sound archaic and corny to some. That is why we seldom hear it said. But it expresses better the meaning of love. “Mahal” means precious or dear. “Minamahal kita” would mean, “You are precious to me”; “You are dear to me”. From this we get the term “Mga Mahal na Araw” for Holy Week, for God loved us so that we were ransomed by the precious blood of Jesus His Son.
3. The Sunday Gospel
a) Jesus quoted the Old Testament in his answer: “Love God” is from Deuteronomy 6:4, and “Love your neighbor” is from Leviticus 19:18. The Jews acknowledge the importance of these two precepts. That is why they put this in small rolled papers or papyrus parchments and insert them in the pillars and beams of their house. The small box-like containers called phylacteries, which they wear on their foreheads contain the same rolled papers. That is to say that they have to drill into their minds these two commandments.
b) What is quite interesting here is that love is a commandment. How can love be commanded? If you are commanded to love, that is not love anymore. Love is supposed to be voluntary and spontaneous.
This kind of reaction is understandable for people who think that love is only an emotion, a feeling. As a feeling or emotion, yes, love cannot be commanded. It has to come from within a person voluntarily. But love is not just emotion or feeling. Love can be accompanied by feeling, but not always. And in fact, there can be love without it.
Love is a decision to give oneself for the good of the other. In marriage, the priest asks the couple to make a decision. He does not ask them “Do you love each other?” Rather he asks: “Do you take this woman as your wife?” “Do you take this man as your husband?” It is a decision: take it or leave it. But that decision has to be free and voluntary. Otherwise that cannot be love. In married life, the period of romance or the wonderful feeling of being in love is short. Very soon, all these will have to give way to the hard realities of life: job, problems, duties and relationships. At times, romantic feelings can be totally gone, but love remains. In fact, sufferings and pains are what make love more sweet and meaningful, like Jesus on the cross.
Many human relationships may begin as eros love, but with time, commitment, and the help of God they can mature into agape relationships that are sustainable even through the worst of times.
c) If love is a commandment, it must therefore be done. Love is hardly a noun; it is a verb, an action word. In the Gospels, the word “love” was used as a verb 62 times; it was used as a noun only 9 times. So love is not something to be described or a subject matter to be discussed; it is something to be done, it is expressed in action. And that action is not inwards, but outwards – toward others. That is why, the greatest enemy of love is not hatred; it is selfishness. It is the contradiction of the natural outward movement of love; the opposite of love.
Love is commanded by God because He is the one who loved us first. He has all the right to command it because He is the first to follow it. He loved us while we were yet His enemies due to our sins. Not only does He follow and observe the commandment of love. He Himself is love: “God is love.”
If we really come to think of it, the commandment of love is not to be understood as an ordinary law or command that is being imposed upon us. If God is love, and He commands us to love, it simply means that God is inviting us to become members of His family of love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a challenge and an invitation to be God-like.
d) Love is the “greatest commandment” because it is the summary of all the commandments: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Love is the essence of all laws. Without love, laws are useless and oppressive. That is why the spirit behind the law should always be love. This means that the laws are there at the service of love: to help us put into practice the one commandment of love. It is like the handrails of the stairs. The stairs make it possible for us to go up. The handrails are placed on both sides of the stairs, not to limit our movement, but to keep us from falling down and to help us climb up the stairs. The laws are the handrails, which protect us and help us ascend the stairs of love towards perfection. For the best description of love, refer to the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 13. Love cannot be captured in one word, so St. Paul enumerates all the adjectives that can describe love.
Another reason why love is the greatest commandment is because it is total self-giving. It is very difficult to do since it goes against our natural human inclination and desires. A command is intended for others to do. But in love, we command ourselves to do it. It is against the first law of nature, which is self- preservation. Instead of preserving the self, love commands us to give the self totally to others.
e) Love of God.
This is the first and most important commandment. Everything begins and ends with God. He has no substitute, no competitor in our love. He is the first and greatest love of our life, and no one else. All the others are secondary to Him. It is therefore idolatrous to say to a person: “Mahal na mahal kita. Kung mawawala ka, mabuti pang mamatay na rin ako.” “Paano kung wala ka na? Ang buhay ko’y wala nang halaga kapag wala ka na.” That is plain and simple idolatry. Such words are only for God. Using such words to a creature is making God out of him/her. Rather, we should say: “Mawala na ang lahat, Huwag lang mawala ang Diyos!” That is the motto of all the saints, especially the martyrs.
f) Love of neighbor.
This is just secondary to the love of God: “The second is like it.” It cannot compare with the love of God. Yet, it is like it. First, because it originates from the love of God. We love our neighbor because we love God. And second, because it is the concrete manifestation of the love of God. If we truly love God, we cannot but love our neighbor. This is what Jesus clearly illustrated in his story of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me.” He identified himself with our neighbors, nay, the least, the last and the lost brothers. So love of neighbor is like love of God: two different faces of one coin.
g) Love of enemies.
Love as agape (the unconditional love of God) extends to all. Therefore, the Christian commandment is to love not just those who are lovable and easy to love, but also those who are considered “unlovable” or “unlovely”, such as the enemies, those who persecute us and those who do evil. The perfect example of this is Jesus Himself. He was crucified by His enemies. But He did not hold any grudge or hatred against them. Instead, He prayed for them and forgave them. St. John in his first letter (1 Jn 4:20) gives us that challenge: how can we prove that we love God if we cannot love our neighbors? It may sound impossible to love our enemies, but we have to, if we truly love God. Otherwise, we become liars: if we cannot love those we can see, how can we love God whom we do not see?
Prayer before the tabernacle:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You most profoundly and I offer You the most precious body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in all tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is surrounded.”
Song: “I Love You, Lord!”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Laganap na ang mga nakawan at paglapastangan ng Banal na Sakramento sa mga simbahan. Ano ang ibig sabihin nito?
2. Ano ang iyong pag-unawa sa salitang “LOVE”?
3. Paano natin maisasagawa ang “love of enemies”?