YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: To love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourselves is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
BY: Fr. Clem C. Aladi.
_”You can never deceive God. No amount of sacrifice and offering in the church or outside of it can substitute the love of God or neighbour or completely replace it.”_
My dearest Children of God, may the peace be with you all and may the love of God reign in your hearts.
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. These are great reminders to us that our worship and religious observances are empty when we don’t demonstrate by our way of life, our love for God which flows from keeping his commandments and our love for our neighbour demonstrated in charity to them. Love for God and neighbour is worth more than anything else.
I feel bitter within me when I see many who make a fat offerings (donations) in the church but could not offer a piece of bread to their next-door neighbours or family members. Many announce their offerings not because they are motivated by the love of God or the genuine needs of others, but because they are paving a way for their future political ambitions. We can deceive men with our offerings but not God. God sees the heart of men.
Every pure and unadulterated religion preaches “love”. The whole message of the gospel could be summarized as God’s love for us. Love is the first and the fulfilment of all the commandments of God. *Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbour because these are the commandments which were given to us first”* -St. Augustine. _”In the light of the word of Jesus, love is the measure of faith, and faith is the soul of love: we cannot separate the religious life – the life of piety – from that of service to our brothers and sisters– to those flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters we actually meet.”_ -Pope Francis. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see. (cf.1 John 4:20). It is not just lying as John puts it, but a deception of oneself, a hypocritic lifestyle, and wishy-washy religious observance.
Many deceive themselves today thinking that their ostentatious sacrifices and offerings in the church will lead them to heaven. While offerings and sacrifices are salutary, and while I do not condemn them, it is necessary to underscore the very fact that when these are devoid of love of God and neighbour, it becomes an empty religious observance. I feel bitter within me when I see many who make fat offerings (donations) in the church and in the community, but could not offer a piece of bread to their next-door neighbour or family members who are starving. Many announce their offerings and make charitable donations not because they are motivated by the love of God, for His church or even the genuine needs of others but because they are paving a way for their future political ambitions. Some of the conflicts in many Parishes are perpetrated by such” fat donors” who declare war on pastors when they feel that their ambitions are threatened by their words or actions. Their offerings are Greek gifts to achieve their hidden motives. Many think that the Church is the easiest avenue to gain cheap popularity and that this can be achieved by making huge offerings. I know of one notable political figure who started by providing free education to children. He won the hearts snd admiration of many by his philanthropy but little did people know he is laying the foundation for his future political ambitions. When that ambition became manifest in his running for the gubernatorial position, people voted for him massively and he won. He came into power and became a beast who unleashed untold hardship and harm on his people. Where was the love, they presumed he had for them in granting free education to their children? Let’s stop deceiving people. God has no regard for such ostentatious living. *”If in our lives we fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform our “religious duties”, then our relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. Only our readiness to encounter our neighbour and to show them love makes us sensitive to God as well”* -Pope Francis. We can deceive men with our offerings and sacrifices but not God for He knows the heart of men. *Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”* – St. Therese of Lisieux.
*How do we love God?* We must keep God’s commandments, and offer daily prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition. We must also read and meditate on His word in the Bible and prayerfully attend Mass and other liturgical functions. If I am going to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, then I am going to have to place His will ahead of mine, and so I may have to say no to some things that I might want to do. I am also going to have to seek the Lord’s will and make it paramount in my life.
*Loving our neighbour* :This means that 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.
Serving God with all our being also entails giving God priority in our lives. Most times we fill our lives up with the garbage of sin and evil habits leaving no space for God. If you love God, keep His commandment, live righteously. Our lives are empty without God. To love and neighbour above every other thing is to be close to God’s kingdom.
May our hearts be filled with the love of God and my it be manifested in our genuine love for our neighbour. In this mass, we pray that God may fill us with the necessary graces to love and worship Him in sincerity and faith.
I keep you and your family always in my prayers.
Fr. Clem C. Aladi.
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