YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: GOD MUST COME FIRST
BY: Abbot Philip Lawrence
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Today the readings invite us to place our love of God before all else in our lives. Already in the Old Testament, the prophets and many of the writers recognized that God must come first. When God is first, our lives become ordered and work well.
The first reading is from the Book of Deuteronomy and speaks clearly: “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” We are perhaps so used to these words that they have become meaningless to us. We need to listen to them again and let them touch the depths of our hearts. These words need to be written in our hearts and lived in our lives. This God who has come in time and history to save us is asking us for our whole lives.
Today many people no longer believe that God exists or that God has spoken. We are invited to make a choice in our lives: either God exists and we must serve Him or God does not exist and we should reject the craziness of the teachings about God. Instead, many of us won’t make a clear choice. We will stay in doubt but not choose. We want to believe but are frightened of believing and find it easier not to believe. The readings today call us to a choice.
The second reading today comes from the Letter to the Hebrews. This letter is always speaking about Jesus as the High Priest. Many of us are not so familiar with this image of a High Priest, which comes from the Jewish faith. The High Priest is an important figure because it is the High Priest who makes sacrifices. The author of this letter wants us to understand that the High Priests of the Jewish people always changed because they died. Instead of that kind of High Priest, we have Jesus, who never dies: “Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. It was fitting that we should have such a high priest.” It is Jesus who opens the door to heaven for us.
It is Jesus who shows us how to pray always. It is Jesus who shows us how to sacrifice ourselves for others. Because Jesus is God, Jesus opens the door to God for us.
Still we are challenged to believe. All of this religious language must become our lived experience of God and of His presence in our daily lives.
The Gospel from Saint Mark brings us back once again to this challenge of love for God and love for others. Only when we live this way, with love for God and others, can we claim to be followers of Jesus. Even if we talk about Jesus, unless we follow His way of living, we are only talking about Him and not believing in Him with our lives. Jesus wants us to love Him and to live as He lived, in sacrificial gift for others. Jesus loves us. Will we love Him and follow Him?
Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico
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