Homily (Reflection) for the Thirtieth Sunday of the Year (A) (29th October, 2017) on the Gospel
Ex 22:20-26;Ps 17:2-4.47.51 (R. V. 2);
One man while reprimanding his son complained bitterly that he had done everything he could as a father. According to him, no one could love better than he did. He repeated this a good number of times. At a point, his son excused himself in a very polite manner, went into his room and came back searching through the pages of the bible. His father stopped with his mouth wide open and his brain filled with possibilities moped at him. After a while, he referred his father to John 15:13. The man quickly took the bible and it reads: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The man could not make a meaning out of the passage. Hence he enquired what the passage meant in the context and the boy told him: “Despite the fact that you have boasted so much of loving me more than any person can love his/her son. I doubt so much how true this claim is because if a man could die for his friends, a father who truly loves his son is expected to do much more than dying.”
Topic: Two wings of Christian love.
In today’s gospel, a Pharisee and a lawyer by profession tested Jesus by asking Him, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” In reply, Jesus defined Christian love using Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, cf. Gal 5:14 - “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Matt 22: 37-39).
Christian love has two dimensions – love of God (vertical) and love of neighbour (horizontal). These two dimensions are qualified. Generally, Christian love is an unconditional love. Loving God demands one’s unreserved love hence with one’s entire soul and mind. On the other hand, one is expected to love his/her neighbour just as he or she loves him/herself. This kind of love can be likened to the type of love Paul encourages husbands to have for their wives, cf. Eph 5:25-29.
Christian love is not something that exists only for a while. According to Song of Songs, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned” (Song 8:7). Hence, Saint Francis de Sales rightly gave us the standard with which we can measure love: “The measure of love is to love without measure”. According to Saint John, “To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love” (2Jn 1:6). To love God is to keep his commandments cf. 1Jn 5:3. Earlier Saint John wrote:
If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also (1Jn 4:20-21).
Although God blessed people with various gifts, but love ranks higher than the rest. In his first letter to the Corinthians he wrote:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1Cor 13:1-3).
There is no gain saying that love hurts. Yet no one is free not to love. In his first letter to the Corinthians Saint Paul wrote that he who does not love God is cursed, cf. 1Cor 16:22. In his first letter, Saint John also wrote: “By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother” (1Jn 3:10). Saint John admonishes us: “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1Jn 3:18). “Love covers a multitude of sins (1Pt 4:8). The love of neighbour is the royal law, cf. Jas 2:8.
Just like the boy we saw in our introductory story, for some of us, the onus to love lies on the other. However, there is something better than being loved. An anonymous writer expressed this in these words: “If there is anything better than to be loved it is loving”. And Jesus did not command us to see that others love us as themselves, but to love our neighbour as ourselves. Love must be free with no string attached to it because love seizes to be love when it seizes to be free. Some see acts of love as baits to get others dance to their tunes. To love because you want the other do as you want is not love. An American Psychologist, Dr Joyce Brothers has this to say: “Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.”
My dear brothers and sisters, let us genuinely love our brothers and sisters. “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1Cor 16:24).
Bible Reading: Rom 13: 8-10; 1Cor 13: 1-13; Phil 2:2b-4; 1Jn 2:29-3:24; 4: 7-21.
Thought for today: Do you love God and your neighbour as you ought?
Let us pray: My God, You are love. Teach me how to love you and my neighbours as I ought and also give me the strength to carry it out – Amen.
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