YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
You may remember this popular story of some monks who faced bitter persecution. Some of the monks left the monastery because they could not endure the excruciating suffering and there were no new intake. Only five elderly monks remained in the monastery that had become old and dilapidated. A Rabbi visited the monks and at the end of the visit, the Abbot (head of the monastery) asked if the Rabbi had any advice for the monks. The Rabbi’s said, “The only message I have for you is that the Messiah is one of you.”
For many days the monks pondered over this message and wondered if there was any truth in what the Rabbi said. Could the Messiah be any one of them? They questioned. One of them asked: Could the Messiah be the abbot who has led them for many years? Could the Messiah be Brother Eldred? He couldn’t be because he is cranky and eccentric. However, He could be, because he has a great capacity of saying and doing what is right. Could the Messiah be Brother Philip? No he could not be because Brother Philip is so passive and laid back. Nevertheless, he has a wonderful virtue of kindness, selflessness and he is charitable to all. Could the Messiah be ordinary me? That is hardly possible. The message of the Rabbi made the monks to begin treating each other with utmost respect and tender love conscious that anyone of them could be the Messiah. They began to see the messiah in each one of them.
Jesus taught us how to see God in each person and he tells us that we cannot love God enough if we fail to see his image in other people. Jesus summarised the whole Jewish law into love of God and neighbour, He wanted his listeners to understand that it is not possible to love God sincerely without loving the people whom God has made in his own image and likeness. St. John makes this point clear when he says, “Whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
The dual commandments of love, which Jesus gave, are taken from the Old Testament. The first part about the love of God was taken from the famous Shema: “Hear O Israel: The Lord your God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4) The Shema emphasises the unity of God and the obligation to love the one God. The second part about love of neighbour was taken from Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” What is remarkable about these twin rules is no Rabbi in the past had synthesized these two passages as Jesus did. The old concept of religion relegated the love of neighbour to the background, but Jesus made the love of neighbour inseparable with the love of God. In fact, the life of Jesus is an embodiment of the love of God and neighbour. He indeed is the perfect model of what he preached on love. God was all and in all in the life of Jesus and he demonstrated tender love to the people to whom he ministered. No wonder, the Letter to the Hebrews extols Jesus and explains why he stands higher and above the holy men that preceded him (Hebrews 7:23-28). The quality of the life of Jesus and his teaching and his total self-offering in love sets him apart and higher than all Levitical priests of the Old Testament.
What makes the instruction of Jesus about love so unique is that he asks his followers not to discriminate against anyone, irrespective of religion, race, tribe or social class. No one should be considered as second-class human person because he is of another religion or because he speaks a different language. No true religion should promote any form of discrimination. Piety, or the love of God is empty when it cannot be demonstrated in the love of others who are different and whose way of life appears strange. Jesus teaches us that our love of God is incomplete unless we love everyone and respect everyone because everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.
Let us pray for the restoration of peace in Kaduna State where religion has been used as an instrument of discrimination and domination. We remember the Christians and Muslims who have lost their lives and properties. We hope that historical grudges may be resolved, justice may prevail and that love will overshadow narrow and deadly sentiments of hatred.
31st Sunday of the Year B/Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 17:28-34