31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
- In the first commandment Jesus tells us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength”. The two commandments to ‘Love God’ and to ‘love our neighbour’, are well known as being at the centre of the Christian life. These two commands are so simple sounding, and yet, how hard it is to truly be able to say that we truly love God with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul and all our strength!
Our Christian lives should be a living out of these two commandments, a constant striving towards loving God more and more, and to loving our neighbour more and more. This does not mean that we have to get rid of all the things we enjoy but it does mean that everything has to be ordered towards God. This usually involves some level of detachment from those things we love, so that we can put God first. I talked to someone once who told me he didn’t bother going to Sunday Mass anymore because it was too much of a chore and going ruined his Sunday mornings; he’d rather wake up really late and cook a fry! I told him that I love a good fry as well, but I would not choose a piece of Bread that came out of a toaster before I chose that bread which comes down from heaven.
In putting God first in our lives and everything else second, we gain everything and we lose nothing. So my friend will have his bread from the toaster and miss Mass, while the person who strives to love God above everything, will get up early and receive the Bread of Life come down from heaven. In the first instance, my friend has gained a meal but lost the opportunity to be with God, while the second person has gained God at Mass, and then goes home to have a fry afterwards with his family The second person wins- he has only gained from loving God above everything. The example just given may seem trivial to some, but in fact it is not. Whether to Love the Lord with all our hearts and soul and mind and strength, or not to do so, is a reality we encounter every day of our lives. We make this choice of loving God in a very real way every time we face a decision that affects how we love and treat our neighbour, and we make it every time we face a decision that impacts on us going to Mass and confession. So we are commanded by Jesus to love God with our entire being, and every day we face the choice in the decisions we make. As we go about our week, let us keep in our minds always, these two central commandments: “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” and “ You must love your neighbour as yourself”. By remembering these timeless commandments and always striving to fulfil them, we gain everything and lose nothing.
One of the scribes who had listened to them debating appreciated that Jesus had given a good answer and put a further question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one, only Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true, that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.